Shuffle project overruns top out at $1.05 million

With the work nearly complete, the multi-million building “shuffle” project has run about $1.050 million over its $7 million budget, estimates David Campbell, chairman of the Board of Education’s Central Office/Mather Community Center Building Committee.

The costs of the project climbed after problems emerged with Dappreio Construction, the contractor hired to revamp the building at 35 Leroy Ave. and the Mather Center — which went out of business in the spring of 2013 with the project half finished.

The final tally for the three-part project included additional design and engineering fees required after Dappreio dropped out of the project,Campbell told the Board of Selectmen at their regular meeting.

The need to change the design of the Mather Center cost an additional $100,000 in funds from QA Architects, $53,000 in fees to redesign heating and cooling systems at the two buildings, and $135,000 in additional fees to settle legal disputes and complications involving Dappreio, Campbell said.

“The overages were on fees to the architects and engineers,” Campbell said. “One of the things that happened is when we realized the problems we were having at 35 Leroy Ave., we hired a new engineer to redesign the system for (the Mather Center) and it turned out to work well.”

The rebuilding effort, which began during Campbell’s tenure as first selectman, involved a wider plan to swap locations moving the Board of Education from Town Hall space to the town’s former library at 35 Leroy Ave., clearing space at Town Hall to be remodeled into the Mather Center, a combination senior and community center. The town’s former senior center at 30 Edgerton St. is slated to be demolished.

Other contributors to the overruns were the caused by needing to pay some fees twice because Dappreio’s shut down, and at least another $60,000 to remove asbestos from a crawl space at the Mather Center that was not known about when the project began, Campbell said.

The town is expected to recover about $600,000 from the state for the project toward covering the work on 35 Leroy Ave. to create a new school district headquarters.

The Darien Public Schools administration moved into 35 Leroy Ave. in spring 2013, and the new senior center opened last July.

The overruns do not include $220,000 approved to install a new heating system for 35 Leroy Ave. and $440,000 to demolish the 60-year-old senior center building at 30 Edgerton St..

The town had until this year been waiting for the Board of Education to decide whether it wished to use the former senior center building, with the board ultimately deciding they did not want to take back the property.

Elizabeth Paris, the director of the senior program at the Mather Center, said Tuesday that since the move from the 30 Edgerton St. building to the new center last July, senior center membership has surged from 739 to 1,189 members.

Five years ago at the Edgerton Street facility, memberships stood at 220 people, Paris said. She credited much of the growth to an expansion of educational programs in everything from art and computers and woodworking.

“We built up fantastic programs over time but moving into a beautiful space in the new building has really boosted membership,” Paris said.