High school renovation audit looks at cost, schedule and planning for future

A forensic audit of the roughly $64-million Trumbull High renovation has been completed.

On Monday night, First Selectman Timothy Herbst said Council Chair Carl Massaro was working to set a meeting for a discussion of the audit, which is about 60 pages. The audit was done by Sansiveri Kimball and Co., LLP and Pan American Consulting Services, LLC. The report audits phase one and two of the project.

The report goes into several aspects of the project, including cost and schedule. As far as delays, the report said those are not unexpected on such a large project, but the report offered suggestions for future capital projects.

The audit report cited lack of communication with town officials during the design process, resulting in some additional costs late in the project that should have been part of the original budget. The report recommends requiring officials and project building committees to meet early in the design process on any future projects.

Another cost overrun was increased overtime for cleaning services and janitorial staff, the report said. It suggested the town consider adding additional funds for these services in the future.

The report also delves into increased costs paid to the town’s representative on the project, AFB Management.

“AFB clearly invested a large number of hours above what was expected as part of the original RFP,” the report said. “They appear to have kept the BC [Building Committee] up to speed on why the additional hours were needed and the BC continuously approved the additional hours and associated costs.”

Most project members interviewed indicated AFB provided a tremendous benefit to the project and the project would have failed with them, according to the report.

While some costs were unexpected, the report said there were changes made that helped bring costs down.

“There were some adjustments made to the project approach which certainly reduced project costs as well,” the report reads. “One of these items was the decision to utilize the Town facilities department to provide the grading and paving for the project, rather than utilizing one of the contractors who provided pricing during the bidding phase.”

The audit report said that the renovation required a great deal of coordinating and scheduling and the report spoke to some of the delays and setbacks.

“It was not atypical for a phased renovation project of this magnitude and complexity to suffer some fairly significant setbacks in the schedule and associated costs,” the report said. “Unforeseen conditions uncovered in the existing construction required some re-design and schedule changes to accommodate. With the extremely compact construction window allowed in these projects, it is often necessary to push off work to a later time and shift phases in order to accommodate. This shifting of construction phases is often difficult to implement and requires a high level of flexibility with the end user. A good number of the interviews identified a lack of flexibility and expectations that the end users would not be burdened by the construction process. This position and lack of flexibility appears to have added a significant level of effort to keep the project on schedule when changes were required.”

The report also cites construction issues and ways that the construction manager, O&G could have better handled the project.

“There were several areas noted during the interviews related to the construction phase of the project,” the report reads. “First was that O&G was cognizant of their schedule and deadlines but did not always consider other work that needed to be done before a project deadline. An example of this would be a completion date before the first day of school, but not allowing time for moving furniture back into classrooms.”

The report gives several suggestions for approaching large capital projects in the future.

Last Friday, Herbst released a response to the 60-page report, saying the findings “confirm that the pre-construction protocols and organization for this project were clearly deficient.”

Herbst also said he was troubled by a finding that one bidder receiving an “unfair advantage.”

“What is particularly useful in this audit is that the Town of Trumbull now has a template of how large, school capital construction projects should be planned, organized and executed in the future,” Herbst wrote. “This audit must serve as a roadmap of how we must approach capital construction projects in our schools and public facilities in the years ahead.”

Planning began for the renovation project in May 2007. All phases of the project had an original estimated completion date of August 2012.

Monday night, AFB Management, gave a brief update on the project to the Town Council, unrelated to the audit report. AFB’s CEO Al Barbarotta, said the Trumbull High Renovation Building Committee had set its final meeting for this week.

To read the entire audit report, visit Trumbull-ct.gov and click on the audit report under “news and announcements.”