Sherman waits patiently for expanded firehouse
It was a project expected to take 10 months.
Work started in July 2009 to renovate and expand the Sherman firehouse from 8,000 to 17,000-square-feet.
Today, about 16 months later, contractors are scrambling to at least get the bays ready by winter to house fire vehicles.
The vehicles are now parked at the town highway garage.
First Selectman Andrea O'Conor sees the bright side of things.
"Take a walk through the facility and you know it's going to be a great asset for the town," said Mrs. O'Connor. "The good news is, we've come up with a lot of value engineering along the way."
Still, Mrs. O'Connor couldn't deny the process has been flawed.
"The project has encountered a lot of problems along the way," she admitted. "We've had three leaking oil tanks. The company supplying steel went out of business. The HVAC contractor pulled out and had to be replaced."
"There was an issue with the specs not being complete when the project was put out to bid," Mrs. O'Connor added. "There have been a lot of changes on the ground."
In September, selectmen feared the project was running above its $4.5 million budget. At last tally, the project was just $14,000 under budget with much work left to be done, Mrs. O'Connor said.
Federal grants hoped for haven't come through. As a result, the geo-thermal heating system planned for the firehouse had to be scrapped.
A traditional heating system will be used instead, Mrs. O'Connor said.
Architects for the project are Silver/Petrucelli & Associates of Hamden, the same firm that designed the new ambulance barn in New Milford.
Dean Petrucelli, a partner in the firm, would not explain delays when called by The Spectrum this week.
Mrs. O'Connor said problems were "design issues" because "it was an old building."
Greg Winter, job supervisor for Merit Associates Inc., the contractors on the project, agreed.
"The project is going like a normal one. The drawings can't always show all of the problems for all of the sub-contractors all of the time," said Mr. Winter, who has been in contracting since 1960.
"It's an existing block building that was built in the early 1950s and had a lot of changes over the years," he said. "Delays happen. All of the problems couldn't be found in advance while the building was being used."
Through the delays, members of the town's volunteer fire department are waiting to get back to their home.
"I wish things were going a little faster but, basically, it's going to be a very positive thing for us when it's done," said fire chief Bob Accosta.
"It's kind of putting us in a rough position with our equipment," he said. "It's at the highway garage and they've been great about things. But it puts them in a difficult position, too. Their equipment is outside while ours is garaged."