November 18, 2017

Letter to the Editor: (Still Unfinished) Boathouse Project Cost to Town Now $550K Over STEAP Grant/Donations; Elect Read to Regain Fiscal Responsibility

To the Editor:

Old Lyme Town Ordinance 20-8 states: “The responsibility for the management, control and development of the Town’s recreational facilities and expenditures made in connection therewith is vested in a Parks and Recreation Commission” (PRC). Thus, PRC requested that it review and approve plans proposed by the ad hoc Boathouse/Hains Park Improvement Committee (BHPIC), as it did for the original Boathouse in 1987 and all three phases of Town Woods Park.

While PRC supported the plan to upgrade the existing Boathouse submitted with the $478,000 STEAP grant, PRC raised serious objections to subsequent BHPIC plans involving $405,000 in Town funds.  So, First Selectwoman Reemsnyder decided to overrule Ordinance 20-8, and requested the previous Town Attorney justify her decision. That factually inaccurate “justification” was unambiguously refuted by a highly respected local attorney on legal grounds.  However, Ms. Reemsnyder continued to ignore PRC concerns about BHPIC-proposed Boathouse plans and likely cost overruns.

The result:  the Boathouse phase of the project exceeded the budget presented to the community in Jan 2016 by over $175,000 – primarily due to structural and code issues and related design errors and omissions; and the project is still not complete, due to on-going drainage issues.

Because the Boathouse cost overrun consumed funds earmarked for the project’s second phase:  upgrading the park’s ADA accessibility and restrooms for use by both rowers and the public, Ms. Reemsnyder requested an additional $150,000 be incorporated into Old Lyme’s 2017-18 Annual Budget to complete the project.  This brings total Town costs to $555,000, in addition to the STEAP Grant funds and donations.

We need experienced community leadership that respects important checks and balances, and will restore governmental and fiscal responsibility to Old Lyme.

Please elect Jude Read First Selectwoman!

Sincerely,

Bob Dunn,
Old Lyme.

Editor’s Note i): The author is the Old Lyme Parks & Recreation Commission Chairman, former chairman of the Town Woods Park Building Committee.

Editor’s Note ii): The author is also a member of the Boathouse/Hains Park Improvement Committee. We apologize that this detail was omitted from the original posting of the letter.

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Comments

  1. Paul Fuchs says:

    The boathouse project has been a 5 year project from the time of writing the grant to the finished product. The goal was not only to improve the facility but also to create a structure in the park that would be reflective of the town. The committee was composed of architects, project management professionals and rowers. Bob Dunn (and the editor) fails to mention that he is a member of the BHPIC and has had the opportunity to participate in the discussion and decision process but unfortunately, of the past 10 meetings he has attended but two.
    All changes to the plan, design, scope and budget for this project have been reviewed, discussed and approved by the Board of Finance as well as unanimously by the Board of Selectmen. All information on the development of the project has been publicly available from the start.
    Bob has claimed from early in the project that the cost was higher due to ‘errors and omissions’. There have been a few cases with both with the architect and the contractor. When that has happened, we have negotiated a financial settlement. One major cost increase was incurred when we attempted to reuse the foundation and pad, at Bob Dunn’s insistence to reduce costs, and against the advice of the architect, and a new foundation had to be constructed in mid project at a higher cost.
    It should be noted that some members of the BHPIC and other interested members of the community have raised $108,000 for improvements to the park which are not in the scope of the boathouse project. These improvements will benefit all those who enjoy the park.
    There are existing drainage issues which are being addressed; these have to do with the high volume of water coming off Boston Post Road in a heavy rain and being piped onto the park property; this is not new.
    The boathouse has been fully operational since the LOLHS Spring Crew began in April. In the time the new boathouse has been open we have taught over 100 children and adults to row.
    The boathouse is a benefit to the town and school. We thank Bonnie, Mary Jo, Skip and the Board of Finance for their strong support throughout the project.
    Paul Fuchs
    Co-chair Boathouse-Hains Park Improvement Committee

  2. Mr. Fuchs conveniently ignored the primary point of my “letter to the editor”, the fact that First Selectwoman Reemsnyder overrode Town Ordinance 20-8 to the detriment of the community – an important fact of which Old Lyme voters should be aware prior to voting (hopefully) for a new First Selectwoman.

    As for the grossly inaccurate, and self-serving, assessment of the performance of the BHPIC of which Mr Fuchs is the co-chair, I will limit myself to the following simple statements:

    – When initially proposed, the Boathouse Hains Park Improvement Project was to be fully paid by CT DEEP STEAP Grant funds – No cost to the Town.
    – In Oct2014, the Town was asked to contribute $405,000 to pay for an expanded Boathouse plan- the vote was held less than a week after the first public information session, and without PRC review or approval. That plan was withdrawn a few weeks later due to code (and structural) issues.
    I and the Old Lyme P&RC Director were added to the BHPIC in Dec2014 to contribute our knowledge and experience from the successful Town Woods Park Building Committee, and to ensure good communication with the PRC.
    – However, once Ms Reemsnyder overrode ordinance 20-8, nearly everything that I, the PR Director, or the PRC communicated, to the BHPIC was ignored or out-voted (8-2) by the original BHPIC members, two of whom were not Old Lyme taxpayers. Thus, PRC representation on the BHPIC was a sham, to allow the co-chairs and selectmen to say they were “listening”.
    – (Note: I attended nearly every BHPIC meeting for >2.5 years, and only recently stopped when it became clear that nearly all funds had been expended and that most BHPIC members had no interest in completing the non-Boathouse phase of the project: ADA accessibility and public bathrooms. It is ironic, that Mr. Fuchs failed to mention that the PRC was asked to oversee that phase of the BHPIC project, and that I will be the Chair of that building committee.)

    In summary, it would take a “thesis” to address the many ways that the BHPIC was mis-managed, or to fully address the wealth of mis-information being propagated to distract from the facts, so I will return to the bottom line:

    – Initially, Boathouse Hains Park Improvement Project was to be fully funded by the STEAP Grant. After 5 years, the cost to the Town has gone from $0 to $555,000, and it is still not complete.

    Ms Reemsnyder needs to take responsibility for her role in this grossly mismanaged project, by overriding the PRC and Ordinance 20-8, and the bait-and-switch approach to funding it.

    Please support good governance – Vote for Jude Read for First Selectwoman!

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