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“We’re getting two for the price of one!”
That was the sentiment from Town Director of Planning George Benson after pointing out that remediation crews were outside the deteriorating Woodbury Hall waiting to get to work on preparations for demolition less than 24 hours after the purchase order for the work was authorized.
According to Christal Preszler, Newtown’s deputy director for Planning, Economic and Community Development, the PO was issued to AAIS Corporation, the same company that completed the Canaan House demolition. That project was completed with such efficiency that there was enough money in the appropriation to complete, or nearly complete, razing neighboring Woodbury Hall, she said.
The Canaan House site will now become the location for the soon-to-be-built community and senior centers. Like the Canaan project, AAIS will handle all the abatement and demolition at Woodbury Hall.
“They have begun with call before you dig, planning and ordering fencing for the exterior, and general cleanup of miscellaneous items in the building,” Ms Preszler told The Newtown Bee on September 20. A site visit bore that out as company personnel were already busy at work, with multiple industrial generators already staged around the building.
The unanticipated savings from the Canaan House work will help further open up visual sight lines across the campus, and from Wasserman Way as Woodbury Hall comes down in the coming months.
The original $5 million authorization for the latest round of spending to begin demolishing unusable buildings at Fairfield Hills came during a sparsely attended August 17, 2015, town meeting. That authorization accounted for a Canaan House budget of about $1.2 million.
“They actually brought the Canaan demo in under $800,000,” Ms Preszler said. “There were some added costs to monitor the work, but the entire Canaan project cost under $900,000.”
The remaining appropriation for the Woodbury project was approved during a Fairfield Hills Authority meeting on September 13. The project was presented to the Board of Selectmen one week later, was transmitted for a purchase order authorization the following day, and the first AAIS crews arrived on site September 20.
Authority Chairman Ross Carley told selectmen that AAIS had negotiated to perform the demolition at a discounted rate, according to meeting minutes.
Ms Preszler said Woodbury Hall is nearly 30,000 square feet including a full basement, or about 10,000 square feet per floor.
“The original Master Plan for Fairfield Hills reflected an intention to reserve Woodbury Hall for reuse,” she explained. “But it permitted the demolition of the building after five years if no tenant or interested developer came forward.”
An additional grant that Ms Preszler captured that covered environmental hazard assessments of every remaining building on the campus helped town officials and the demolition contractor determine remediation and demolition costs ahead of time, “almost by line item,” she said.
“The grant helped us lay out each particular cost and back that up with the ‘why’ — why each of those line items were priced the way they were,” she said, adding that those costs were fixed two years ago and that they likely increased slightly, but not substantially, ahead of this new project.
“Taking down Canaan also taught us a few things,” she said. “It proved in the end, the expense was very close to the estimated cost.”
Ms Preszler said that the lion’s share of the remaining authorization will be devoted to hazardous material abatement, versus actual demolition. She is estimating the site will be clear and seeded as open space within roughly six months, but severe or mild winter weather conditions could impact the ability for crews to expedite work.
She said much of the salvageable materials and fixtures were removed and stored more than a year ago. There still may be some additional components in the building that would also be removed in the coming weeks.
“This gets rid of another contaminated building that had no practical or productive use, and no development offers to date,” Ms Preszler added.
She said that except for some possible parking restrictions around the demolition site, there should be no restrictions or inconvenience to visitors to Fairfield Hills during the process.