NASHUA — The Joint Committee on School Construction Projects is recommending Lavallee-Brensinger Architects to head up the renovation of Broad Street Elementary School.
Last month, the committee, which is made up of both members of the Board of Education and the Board of Aldermen, heard presentation from four different firms. After mulling it over, they decided on Lavallee-Brensinger of Manchester.
“We’ve done business with them before, and we’ve had good results,” said Nashua Board of Education member William Mosher, one of the school side representatives on the committee.
But the recommendation wasn’t unanimous.
At last week’s school board meeting, member Dennis Ryder said the joint committee was doing a poor job hiring an architect.
“The low bidder is a reputable company but the majority of the committee expressed a preference for a local architect,” said Ryder.
Ryder objected to passing over Harriman Architects, a Maine firm that said they could do the job for $432,000. Lavallee-Brensinger is asking $546,000 to design the $7 million upgrade of Broad Street, which will include new heating and ventilation systems, redesigned entrances drainage improvements and courtyard repairs.
Ryder objected to more than just the fees. He said the committee should be open to working with new people and firms, rather than just picking the local candidate.
“It’s a serious problem,” he said. “We are never going to get anyone from outside to bid on our jobs.”
But other members of the committee felt the extra money would be well spent on a firm that has a proven track record in Nashua.
Lavallee-Brensinger has been involved in a number of school construction projects in Nashua, including the design of Nashua High School North and the renovation of Nashua High School South. Last year, the city hired the firm to assess the condition of Broad Street, Birch Hill Sunset Heights and Main Dunstable elementary schools, so they were already familiar with the building.
Committee members also gave the firm high marks for being able to work around students while school was in session.
“I’m satisfied with the recommendation,” said Mosher who added there was more to consider that just the fees. “You have to look at the whole picture.”
Mosher said committee members liked the fact that Lavallee-Brensinger had ongoing relationships with subcontractors and there have been only a handful of minor change orders on the major projects they have done for Nashua.
“They have the experience and they have the staff on board,” said Mosher. “And they always come in under budget.”