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Kitchen confusion

GHS: Architect moved ahead on design prematurely

GREENFIELD — Confusion over the Greenfield School Building Committee’s plans to move the high school’s kitchen during construction came to a head Tuesday — after the project’s architect sent a bill for work the committee wasn’t aware was being done.

Lead architect Lee Dore asked the building committee to pay $6,380 for design work done by a Massachusetts-based food service consultant on a proposed revamped kitchen space at the Greenfield Middle School.

Committee members had previously indicated their interest in shifting kitchen operations to the middle school, but contended they never officially approved the project although their consultants were under the impression they had.

Breakfasts, lunches at stake

The building committee needs to find a new space for food service operations because the high school’s kitchen — which prepares half of the district’s 350,000 meals each year — will be offline for the first half of 2015, just months before the new $66 million school is scheduled to fully open. Breakfast and lunches are served in all Greenfield schools, and officials are keen to keep the service running because the meals are free or deeply discounted for the town’s many poor students.

In January, the building committee had indicated the most cost-effective option would be to turn a storage space next to the middle school kitchen into a prep room and conduct all food service operations out of that school. But the committee said Tuesday it never officially voted to approve that plan and was therefore surprised to see the bill for consulting work.

Crabtree McGrath Associates — a national food service equipment planning and consulting company based two hours east in Georgetown — was hired by Dore & Whittier Architects, visited Greenfield and has contributed work toward the design, said Project Manager Jim Byrne. The $6,380 bill also includes some consulting work that would take place later when the prep room was set up, he said.

All of the high school project’s main consultants had thought that the committee wanted to go forward with the middle school plan, said Byrne. Earlier this year, the consultants had toured restaurants and other facilities with town and school officials to scope out possible options.

“I felt all along that we had a clear direction ... to expand the kitchen at the middle school,” he told the committee. “If you have another alternative, we won’t move forward, (but) that was my impression.”

Byrne — speaking on behalf of Dore, who was unable to attend Tuesday’s meeting — acknowledged that the architect should have come to the committee first and that it had likely been forgotten in the frenzy to meet state-imposed design submissions deadlines.

Vote: 4-2 to pay bill

The committee ultimately voted 4-2 to pay the bill — with dissenting votes by Superintendent Susan Hollins and Robert Tombs — although members told the project consultants that this couldn’t happen again.

“I’d like to figuratively give the architect a slight slap (on the) wrist,” said member Kenneth Black. “We’re not opposed to paying consultant fees but we don’t like to hear about it after the fact.”

The building committee is still not sold on the middle school option, which carries an estimated cost of $140,000 and still requires plumbing and electrical consulting work, and will revisit the issue next month.

To pay for the project, the committee would need to dip into its contingency fund, which has about $875,000, said Byrne. He told committee members Tuesday that they should wait about a month before taking further action, because at that point they’ll have a better idea if the project is on, or possibly under, budget.

Byrne told the committee that there is still plenty of time to make the decision, since the kitchen won’t go offline until January 2015.

Other business

Byrne said that he’s working with Shawmut Design and Construction, the town’s construction manager, to lock down the project’s guaranteed maximum price. That figure would determine if the building committee has any money to pick up items on its alternate list — which includes things like additional insulation, better flooring material, a light monitor and improvements to the athletic track.

Once that guaranteed maximum price is set, only change orders initiated by other town or unforeseen project conditions would force Greenfield to put additional money into the project.

All other scenarios would result in Shawmut footing the bill, which puts pressure on the company to create a realistic guaranteed maximum price and to hold subcontractors and its own workers accountable on the job.

Also on Tuesday, the committee expressed interest in hiring one or two companies to set up a webcam and take digital photographs throughout the project to provide constant documentation. It will put out bids soon and is also working on setting up a website about the project.

Building Committee Chairman Keith McCormic said the town’s “history of things being built in strange ways” — an allusion to the bungled middle school construction project — makes this type of investment worthwhile.

High School Principal Donna Woodcock thanked Shawmut for temporarily pausing the use of loud machinery during a recent round of standardized testing.

You can reach Chris Shores at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 264

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