On March 3, the congregation voted to spend up to $1.5M to renovate portions of the Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems of the main church building and the Parish House. The plan is to fund this project by a capital campaign to be rolled out in the Fall, although expenses incurred before the completion of the campaign will be met with a bank loan under the supervision of the Stewardship Committee.
On May 12, the congregation will be asked to vote on expanding the budget for the renovation of the HVAC system. There will be a presentation after church this coming Sunday, April 28, that will review more of the background information and detail, but a summary is provided here.
Why has the projected budget for this project increased? There are two factors driving the increase in the budget: expansion of the scope of the project, and revision of some of the budget estimates.
Expansion of scope: Repairs to the first floor of the Parish House, which houses the Nursery School, are part of the Master Plan, but the Master Plan Steering Committee and the HVAC Subcommittee are proposing to do them concurrently with the HVAC Project, rather than later, for two reasons.
First, the HVAC project will entail opening the ceilings on the first floor of the Parish House. It will be cheaper in the long run to do the necessary ceiling, lighting, sprinkler and electrical work then, rather than closing the ceilings and going back to do it at a later date. Note that by Code, we cannot leave open ceilings while the rooms are occupied, so that is not an option. Doing this additional work at the same time as the HVAC renovation also means that the Nursery School would only be displaced one summer, instead of two.
Secondly, as we discovered after the ceiling problem in the Teachers’ Break Room in March, the ceiling and light fixtures are nearing the end of their expected useful lifespans and this summer’s construction project presents a well-timed opportunity to replace them.
Revised cost estimates: Since the vote in early March, additional planning work has been done by our Architect, our HVAC system consultant, our Owners’ Project Manager (OPM), and our Construction Manager to develop detailed construction plans. In the process, they will consult with a number of other construction industry professionals with specialized expertise in various fields (e.g., fire safety, building code compliance, hazardous materials) as well as the Town of Wellesley and National Grid, in order to refine the scope and determine the updated cost of our project. It is this refined cost estimate based on these more detailed construction plans that we will vote on at the congregational meeting on Sunday, May 12.
Why did we vote on a budget based on preliminary estimates? The primary factor was time. In order to complete the HVAC work on the first floor of the Parish House in time for the Nursery School to open in the Fall, we must begin work in June which means completing the final construction plans, ordering materials and equipment, and getting permits during May. In order to accomplish these tasks, we needed to have an OPM and contractor in place by the beginning of April, for which we needed approval from the Congregation in March. It was also important to move quickly to hire the OPM and the contractor because the summer is typically peak construction season, particularly for schools and universities which also have Fall opening deadlines.
It’s worth reminding ourselves why we are doing this in the first place. The HVAC system is a very old patch-work which is dysfunctional: uneven heating, no central A/C in the Parish House, inadequate air circulation, no fresh air supply, no sprinkler system. It’s been failing, and those failures incur unbudgeted and disruptive repairs which are, at best, patches.
Replacing the HVAC system may not be glamorous or driven by a specific mission, but in the end, this building, this space, supports every mission of our church family, the missions of the many community groups that use our facilities, and every person who comes here to work, to worship, to serve, or to connect.
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And please remember to mark two Sundays – this Sunday, April 28 – and Sunday, May 12 – on your calendar for the information session and the vote on the expanded HVAC project, respectively, both of which will be held immediately after the morning church service. Thanks!