Westhampton’s new public safety complex beset by delays

  • Steve Holt, chairman of the Public Safety Complex Construction Committee and assistant fire chief, and Dave Antosz, the Fire Chief in Westhampton, talk about the progress of the new public safety complex on Wed. Feb. 16, 2022. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/4/2022 3:04:53 PM
Modified: 7/4/2022 3:02:14 PM

WESTHAMPTON — The completion date for the town’s much-anticipated $4.3 million public safety complex has been bumped to the fall. 

Residents approved a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion override to finance the project in March 2021, and the former public safety facility at 48 Stage Road was demolished the following month.

“The original plan was to build this building in five months and get the trucks in there in four months and do the finish afterwards,” said Steve Holt, chairman of the Public Safety Complex Construction Committee and Westhampton assistant fire chief. “But we’re moving forward at a slower pace than desired.”

Challenges have persisted throughout the construction process for the new 10,400-square-foot facility for the police and fire departments. 

The discovery of vermiculite, a type of non-fiberglass insulation, in the former Stage Road facility led to a $15,000 remediation that took five weeks, Holt said. 

From there, an estimated dozen change orders has further delayed construction, said Phil Dowling, chairperson of the Select Board and a member of the Public Safety Complex Construction Committee.

Although some of the change orders included upgrades to the building, such as opting to use spray foam insulation, Dowling said there were some delays from the project’s architect, DiGiorgio Associates Inc. 

For example, Holt said the Charlestown-based firm had sent plans that worked on paper, but that adjustments had to be made on the ground. 

“The engineering firm has really let us down badly. If there’s a small issue, the general contractor has a right to say I need a change order for this — it isn’t working the way it’s supposed to be — it has to be approved by the engineering firm. Everybody and everything stops until the engineer approves it and comes back with the answer,” Holt said. “I am disappointed that it is so far off schedule, but there’s no good person to blame other than the engineering firm.”

A nationwide shortage of construction workers also appears to have contributed to the delays as the project’s general contractor, W.J. Mountford Co. of South Windsor, Connecticut, has between two and three workers plus a foreman at the project site, according to Holt. 

To meet the demands for labor, the construction industry will need to add 650,000 workers nationwide this year, according to a February analysis by the national trade association Associated Builders and Contractors. 

With delays on the Westhampton safety complex factored in, the general contractor has provided a construction schedule with October as an end date, Dowling said, rather than June as originally expected. 

“The town is not very happy about that,” he said. “But the bottom line is that we will get it done.”

For the time being, the Highway Department continues to accommodate the Fire Department, with all of its equipment stored at the town garage on Hathaway Road. The Police Department has a trailer for its office situated behind the Highway Department’s building. 

Over the next two months, Holt says there should be a lot happening as many subcontractors will be on site. 

“There is a crew that has been continuously working there — it’s just not as big a crew as we’d hoped for,” he said. “But like I told my daughter when she was working on her house, ‘As long as something is happening every single day, we’re moving forward.’”

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.
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