Rejuvenating Town Hall: Capital Expenditure & FinCom Meet to Review Town Hall HVAC Upgrade Plan

By Bob Dorer

Bedford's Town Hall
Bedford’s Town Hall – Image (c) JMcCT, 2013

On consecutive nights this past week (September 24 and 25) the Capital Expenditure Committee and the Finance Committee met with Town Officials to hear the details of a $2.85M planned project to modernize Town Hall’s various mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems, referred to as the “MEP” project.

Major elements of the project include replacing the 28-year-old heating and air conditioning systems, adding a fire suppression sprinkler system and an updated fire alarm monitoring system, replacing outdated plumbing fixtures with versions that meet current requirements for water use reduction, and replacing the elevator control system. The project will replace systems that are inefficient by current standards and costly to maintain, require more frequent unplanned emergency repairs, have limited monitoring and control capabilities, and in some cases do not meet current life safety code requirements.

Taissir Alani, Director of Facilities, and Ron Scaltreto, Facilities Department Operations Manager, also briefed the Capital Expenditure Committee on town facilities operations and maintenance and the importance of planned maintenance to avoid costly deferred maintenance. Director Alani noted that the industry standard for building maintenance staffing is one trained professional per every 60,000 square feet but that Bedford’s ratio is less than one employee per 100,000 square feet, the deficit sometimes leading to deferred maintenance.

Town Manager Rick Reed and Director Alani conducted a similar briefing for the Finance Committee the next evening. Members of both committees asked numerous questions about details of the plan and possible alternatives and the implications of only doing selected elements of the plan. Of particular interest was how to treat the multi-purpose room and its separate but co-located HVAC related systems. Some members suggested the room’s current uses do not warrant additional investments, while others noted the need for such a room when town business requires a room of its size.

Finance Director Victor Garofalo noted the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has committed to the concept of funding approximately 50% of the project cost with CPC funds, a combination of cash and bonding. Garofalo suggested the remainder of the project could be funded with a one-time bond coupon of $479k that the town recently received, and then bond less than $1M.

Neither committee took a formal vote on the proposal, but both committees expressed their appreciation of the detailed information presented and in general were sensitive to and in support of part or all of the various identified needs of the project. Additional discussions of the project are planned for upcoming meetings of both committees prior to the Special Town Meeting on November 6. The MEP plan was also presented and discussed at recent Community Preservation Committee and Selectmen meetings.


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