Frequently Asked Questions Medfield Public Works Facility

1.  Can’t we just salvage the existing DPW building via additions and repairs? What sort of compromises in terms of safety, costs, and savings would this entail?

The existing building is near or past the end of life. The existing building does not meet current environmental, mechanical, plumbing, structural or building codes. Major renovation would require the building to meet current codes. It is likely that renovation costs would be near the cost of a new facility with less useful life of the renovated structure. It is the opinion of the committee that the building is not salvageable.

2. Materials: Why is the proposed building masonry? Would a metal or a combination masonry-and-metal building be more cost-effective in either the short- or long-term?

Extensive analysis and estimating has been done on this issue. It was determined that a metal panel system would cost just as much or potentially more initially and would cost much more over the life cycle of the building. Metal products deteriorate more rapidly over time than masonry and the salt used for snow and ice removal accelerates this process. It is the unanimous opinion of the building committee that the building be constructed of masonry.

3. Building Type: The town is looking at replacing the Police/Fire building which is only 40 years old because the masonry construction doesn’t lend itself to renovation/addition. Why should the garage be masonry if it will limit the usefulness of the building in the future?

Current building approaches in New England separate the structure of a building from its enclosure or skin. The police/fire building is masonry building with cast-in-place concrete structure and structural masonry structure making it physically strong but inflexible. The garage is being proposed as a steel structure with a masonry envelope or skin. By building with steel, the building becomes easy to add onto or renovate and using masonry for the high-use areas and envelope takes advantages of the durability and low-maintenance cost of masonry construction.

4. Women’s Lockers: Do we need facilities for women if there are no female employees? Could this space be utilized more effectively for other purposes?

The size and number of bathrooms and locker rooms are dictated by building codes. The building inspector will not issue a permit for construction if the building does not meet building codes. In addition, deviation from building codes leaves the town open to possible legal action for discrimination.

5. Heating: Why are the garages bays centrally heated? How much will this cost versus not heating the bays? Would it be more effective to use portable electric engine block heaters? Should the bays be heated at all if this may potentially damage the vehicles?

The garage bays will be heated to approximately 50 F and will require fresh air make up when the trucks are operating. Heating of the garage bays maximizes the use of the equipment by minimizing time for removal of snow/ice and minimizing potential maintenance issues surrounding the hydraulic systems and diesel engines in the equipment. The committee, along with the architectural/engineering firm, are investigating options for heating the garage bays that may be more cost effective in both initial cost and operational cost. Block heaters heat the engine blocks. They do not unfreeze the airbrakes, the hydraulic systems or remove snow and ice from the outside of snow removal equipment.

6. Expertise: Have the plans for the garage been fully analyzed and confirmed by those who will be both constructing and actually using the garage? In other words, do those who are in fact “in the know” believe this is the appropriate, proper structure to build?

The building committee is comprised of six members with either architectural, construction management or engineering degrees and who are either involved in the design/construction industry or have been involved with public building construction in Medfield. There is over 100 years of combined experience in the construction industry on our committee. The replacement of the public works building has been a recommendation of three different committees tasked with analyzing the town’s building requirements over the past 10+ years.


7. Do we really need three repair bays?

There are times when vehicles need to occupy a bay while awaiting a part for a repair and other maintenance cannot be neglected during those times. Three repair bays has been deemed an appropriate number based on the number of vehicles that the town owns and operates by comparison with other local communities.

8. Do snow plows need to be located inside?

The current plan is for the snow plows to be located outside.

9. Why can’t the building have a center travel aisle with a single door on each end instead of the 40 roll-up doors? Won’t this reduce cost?

By adding an enclosed center aisle, the number of doors decreases, but that is offset by an increase in steel, concrete, roofing, insulation, masonry. In addition, due to the increase in the enclosed volume of space the ventilation and lighting systems increase. This leads to more initial cost as well as more operational cost by powering more lights and more mechanical systems to accommodate the additional volume of enclosed space. Lastly, due to site constraints on the existing property, this larger building enclosure would be difficult to achieve.

10. Why now? Is this the best time for this?

Timing construction projects is always a double edged sword. During a down economy, construction pricing and borrowing costs are low, but taxpayers may be stretched and less favorable to approving the expenditures. During a good economy, taxpayers may be more amenable, but construction costs and borrowing costs increase significantly. It is our position that now is an excellent time to build as borrowing costs are at record lows and construction labor and materials costs remain relatively low compared to recent history. We are nearing the end of a window where borrowing costs and constructions costs are near record lows. In the past two years, construction costs have risen such that a now smaller garage project will cost more than it would have 2 years ago. As the economy continues its recovery, borrowing costs will rise as well.

11. Would it be cheaper to enter a “design, build and operate agreement” ?

The PBC did evaluate this option. Public construction law is murky on this point. But town counsel did not think we could proceed legally with a design, build and operate agreement. The University of Lowell recently was involved in this type of agreement which resulted in a lawsuit that went to the state supreme court which they then lost. Additional information on this lawsuit is available at this link

12. Why not the Potpourri Building (Large Commercial building on rte 27/west street)?

The building was looked at by our committee for use for a public works facility and/or public safety – it was found to be too expensive for a public works facility, and not in the correct location for a public safety facility – too far from downtown for the – emergency vehicles. We also felt it was not a good idea to lose a large piece of our very small commercial tax base.

Why Masonry instead of Metal ?

Daedalus our project manager has found that for our project  a ground faced concrete masonry unit is cheaper than a metal panel system in both initial construction costs and long term maintenance and replacement costs.   Typically the initial cost of metal buildings can be slightly less expensive than masonry construction,  but the cost savings are so small and the long term maintenance  costs are much higher  that it would not be wise for the town to build a metal building.

To further reduce costs we have changed from a ground face block to a split faced block.

details in the memo below.

Masonry vs steel panel system