Last week, the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) sought bids for the Wrentham renovations. DCAM is now projecting that the project will cost $1.8 million — some $200,000 higher than initially projected. Although the administration claims that closing Fernald will save money, we believe this $1.8 million is one of many costs that were not factored into that savings projection.
We requested the feasibility study in an effort to learn more about that potential Wrentham renovation cost. In August, DCAM refused our request for the study, arguing that it wasn't complete.
Early last month, Public Records Supervisor Alan Cote upheld DCAM's refusal to provide the feasibility study. This despite the fact that the actual design for the renovations had been completed by that time, according to the director of the Wrentham Center. Feasibility studies precede design under the state's construction bidding rules.
Cote's decision was apparently based on a November 30 email from DCAM's deputy general counsel, stating that DCAM and DDS were holding “ongoing discussions…as to whether 'the building [slated for renovations at Wrentham] can be used' for the contemplated purpose.”
Cote stated that the state's Public Records law exempts documents from disclosure that relate to ongoing policy deliberations. But the law also states that the exemption does not apply to “reasonably completed factual studies or reports.”
We thought Cote's decision was a poor one because it was apparently made only on the basis of DCAM's assertions. Cote's staff attorney never talked with us about the case. It also appears the attorney never verified the claim that the buildings in question might not be used for “the contemplated purpose;” and he does not appear to have reviewed the feasibility study to determine whether it really was incomplete.
Now that DCAM is seeking bids from contractors, we don't see how the agency can argue that it is still discussing the purpose of the renovations. So, we've resubmitted our Public Records request for the original feasibility study.
Your guess is as good as ours as to whether DCAM will now release it.