No. Smithfield council rejects new costs for voice and data plan for Kendall Dean

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Despite warnings that it would leave an ongoing renovation project at the former Kendall Dean School incomplete, members of the Town Council voted 3-2 this week to reject a plan to install some 200 phone and data lines to the building.

The plan – which would have cost the town an additional $32,778 – was presented via a change order submitted by Town Council President Paul Vadenais, who serves as head of the Municipal Buildings Task Force, the group overseeing the roughly $5.2 million project.

The dispute over technology for the building is the latest delay in a project that’s been the focus of much controversy since voters approved bond financing for the work in 2014. Delays began in 2016 when an election brought new politics and faces to the project, and the prior board in charge of overseeing the work – the Public Facilities Task Force – was dismissed.

Plans for town buildings have undergone numerous changes in the years that followed, with half of the project – renovation of the Town Annex – eliminated completely after a bid came in high in 2018.

In July, the Task Force gained council approval for a contract for voice and data installation at Kendall Dean – a school built in 1936 that is now slated to become the new Town Hall – which would have seen Alarm New England complete the work at a cost of $15,000.

But Town Administrator Gary Ezovski said Monday that the contract was inadequate, as it only included 50 lines, when the building requires more than 200.

“It’s just getting a phone in each conference room… getting a computer drop in each conference room. How the architect had 50 is beyond me,” said Ezovski. “This is a purchase of what we actually need.”

The request was one of several change orders submitted by Vadenais Monday night, and Councilor Douglas Osier expressed concern that the additional needs are adding up.

“Do we anticipate any more?” Osier asked. “It just seems like the change orders are sneaking in and they’re slowly creeping up.”

“There are more change orders coming,” said Vadenais. “I don’t know what their values are.”

And while board members approved other changes to the plan, along with payment of $326,749 to contractor Calson Corp., three councilors remained unconvinced of the need for the additional drop lines, which some called outdated.

Councilor Paul Zwolenski pointed out that the data services order marked a 200 percent increase over the original contract.

“I can’t follow this,” said Zwolenski. “It’s just a lot of money.”

Ezovski noted that the company would be installing four times as many lines.

“What was presented in July was inadequate,” said Ezovski. “You can say no, but we’ll have a building sitting over there that we’re not moving into because it isn’t going to work.”

Vadenais noted that the original architect for the project under the PFTF had called for 200 lines.

“This is what you truly need to operate the building properly,” Vadenais said, warning that without approval, the town would not have a complete building. “You will have holes in the system that will need to be filled in.”

Zwolenski asked if the work could go back out to bid.

“We’ve already ordered the contract,” Vadenais replied. “If you don’t want to vote for it, don’t vote for it.”

Planning Board Chairman Gary Palardy asked why the company planned to drop physical cables.

“Why not wireless?” Palardy asked, noting that his job no longer uses the physical drop lines. “We don’t have cables running to our desks.”

Osier agreed.

“I’m not an architect. I can’t tell you how to design all of that,” said Osier. “But I do know computers. I work on them. A couple wireless routers works just as well.”

Of the 50 line bid he said, “We should have known it was light.”

Osier questioned who had since determined that the 200 plus lines were needed.

“$30,000, after the budget cycle that we just went through, is a lot of money that could have been used in a lot of different areas,” he said.

Vadenais said the town’s IT department recommended the purchase. Ezovski noted that the head of the department is not a systems designer.

“What we’re doing is transitioning the same style system we have today into a new building,” said Ezovski. “I don’t see how you could change direction at this point.”

“Everything around us is moving in a wireless direction,” said Osier in voting against the change order. “It’s going to incur more costs down the line.”

Councilor Claire O’Hara joined Osier and Zwolenski in voting against the additional spending.

“It’s antiquated before we’re starting,” she said.

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