Wellesley Facilities Management Department Director Joe McDonough calls his team’s upcoming capital spending budget “the Super Bowl of the FMD.” It’s good to have at least one Super Bowl to enjoy in light of the Patriots’ outlook for the rest of this National Football League season.
McDonough made his presentation during the Select Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 2, giving a flyover of most of the town’s 29 buildings, and emphasizing an effort to focus on sustainability and energy efficiency. Also not to be overlooked are FMD’s efforts to upgrade air filtering systems across town buildings, with a priority on schools, to make congregating indoors safer during the pandemic.
The FMD director kicked off his presentation by touting a partnership with the Permanent Building Committee (PBC), which according to the town website “is responsible for estimating, designing, and constructing town projects costing over $500,000.”
The project management process FMD has adopted has enabled the town to efficiently tackle everything from school security to library renovation. McDonough, citing numbers from Design and Construction Manager Steve Gagosian, claimed $2.7M in savings over three years (most of that on the school building security project) with the aim of working with the PBC on projects worth $238M over the next few years.
Funding for the top two items on this list, Middle School building systems and Wellesley Free Library renovations/roof, was approved at the recently completed Special Town Meetings. Roofers are rejoicing over this priority list, which includes both new projects and maintenance efforts.
Of course whether these timelines hold steady in the months and years ahead remains to be seen as the town deals with frightening finances in light of the pandemic—Wellesley’s looking to slash capital requests by at least a few million dollars and it would still be looking at a deficit . The Town Hall Annex project, which has been rethought based on work completed on Town Hall, has already been deferred for two years from its original projected completion date.
Overall, FMD has worked on 376 projects totaling more than $16M in cash capital over the past 10 years, McDonough says.
“The first couple of years we really had a lot of smaller projects, and there’s a reason for that—it was deferred maintenance, just catching up and plugging holes,” he says. “The last few years, fewer projects, costlier projects. It’s a good story because we’re going from…behind the wave to ahead of the wave.”
Preventative maintenance and planned maintenance are where the town is now and wants to be.
Highlights of what’s ahead ranged from a fluorescent-to-LED bulb replacement project at the 9-year-old Wellesley High School building, which “just missed the LED train” when it was designed, McDonough says. The FY22 budget request would be for more than $1M for LED replacement at Wellesley High and Wellesley Middle School.
FMD has been aggressive of late in swapping in LEDs at a number of buildings across town from Bates Elementary School to the Police and Fire Departments to the Recycling & Disposal Facility.
FMD’s Allen Hebert dove deeper into the town’s 11-year LED program, which he says should be done by FY25 and reap the town a 19% electricity use cut per year ($180K in yearly savings), plus a big CO2 reduction of 600 metric tons per year. It’s not all about sustainability and savings either, but also lighting quality and improved learning, Hebert says.
Also upcoming are high profile elementary school building projects at Hunnewell and Hardy set for 2024 and 2025 openings. The Warren building at 90 Washington St., where the Recreation and Health Departments reside, has a hurtin’ HVAC system that needs to be improved to the tune of $750K come the FY22 budget, which would total $2M.
Though McDonough is realistic about that request getting scrutiny in light of the town’s overall financial challenges.
“The two biggest questions here are the middle school and high school LED projects. They make up more than half of the $2M budget…” he says. “You’ve seen the reasons why we think it’s important. But we also realize that there’s budget guidelines and you don’t always have the funds that need to do what you want to do.”
FMD has a carefully thought-out system for LED fixture and bulb installations, based in part on how hard it is to reach some of the bulbs, where ladders, staging, and general disruption is required.
The Select Board acknowledged the validity of the projects outlined but did ask a series of questions related to how the LED projects might be divvied up over time if the overall town budget won’t allow for them to take place in the very near future. Some state grants that in the past have covered LED installation costs might not be so easily available these days.