Oak Bluffs selectmen see plans for new town hall and fire/EMS station

Artist's rendering of the proposed new Oak Bluffs Fire/EMS station, to be built on the site of the current Fire/EMS station, at the intersection of Wing Road and County Road. — Keenan + Kenny Architects Ltd.

John Keenan and Antonia Kenny, principals in the architectural firm Keenan and Kenny Ltd. of Falmouth, presented the results of the feasibility study they’ve completed for a new Oak Bluffs town hall building and a new Fire/EMS station. The architects told selectmen at their Tuesday meeting that the most cost-effective course for the town was to demolish both structures and build new buildings in their places. The architects have estimated the total cost to replace both buildings at $14,351,100.

The report, commissioned after it was approved at the April town meeting, was done over the last six months, in conjunction with the selectmen’s building study committee. Keenan and Kenny were selected from a pool of 12 firms from across the country, and they are no strangers to the Island — they are the architects of record for the West Tisbury Town Hall renovation and expansion and the new West Tisbury police station.

Selectmen Tuesday also reviewed the warrant for a special town meeting scheduled for November 12.

Town hall teardown

Mr. Keenan said it became clear early in the process that town hall was beyond repair. “As we went further on in our analysis of the existing building, it became apparent that the existing building needs more work than we thought,” Mr. Keenan said. “We found out, in talking to some of the local historians, the stone rubble foundation was made with sand from the beach, which means it has salt, which means it’s falling apart. So we have to replace 50 percent to 60 percent of the foundation. It doesn’t make sense to do that and keep the building. We looked at other ways to keep the existing building, raising the roof, things like that, and the costs just mushroomed and made the cost of renovating the building more expensive than constructing a new building.”

Mr. Keenan estimated the cost saving of a new building to be in the neighborhood of $200,000. He also said that new construction reduced the chance of unforeseen snags, which would add 15 percent to the budget, and that new construction would not take as long as renovating the old building, thus reducing temporary town hall costs and the inconvenience factor.

The architects based the exterior design on photos of old buildings that were on the same location. “It will be a characteristic Oak Bluffs style,” said Mr. Keenan. “Large windows, heavy trim, some of the so-called gingerbread features, cedar shingles, a simple basic construction. No bells, no whistles, just good solid construction.”

The current town hall is 11,407 square feet. The new town hall will be 20,261 square feet, including 6,500 square feet of unfinished attic space for future use.

Mr. Keenan said it will be an all-electric building, no oil or gas, which is the same power source used for the two West Tisbury buildings they designed.

“It’s the most efficient system you can use now.” he said. The south-facing roof will be built to support the weight of solar panels and allow easy installation of them. “All they have to do is put them on the roof and plug them in, everything else is there.”

The construction cost for the new town hall will be $5,208,000. The total project cost, which includes items like legal fees, hazardous waste removal, soil borings, surveys, licensing, bidding, furnishings and the state-mandated project manager will be $6,359,750. Mr. Keenan estimated the project would take 14 to 16 months, depending on when it’s started.

“We complete this design in March or April. If you appropriate more money in April [2014] we would finish the drawings and put it out to bid in the summer and start work in the fall. You don’t want to start construction in July on the Vineyard. If you start October 2014, you may be done January 2016, or sooner,” he said. “We figured for temporary housing, portable classrooms for 14 months will cost about $36,000.”

Firehouse reboot

The proposed 20,250-square-foot fire/EMS station is also new construction that will be built on the existing site, to replace the current 8,413 square foot structure.

“We’re trying to make it as economical and functional as we can,” said Mr. Keenan. “The new building will conform to all setbacks, which the current one does not. The back part of the building will be a pre-engineered metal building, the front will be wood framed. There will be six vehicle bays, two for EMS vehicles and four for fire trucks.”

The building will also house office space, a meeting room, kitchen, living space, four bunk rooms, restrooms, mens and womens locker rooms, medical treatment center, emergency management office, machine shop, emergency generators, and storage space. The south-facing roof will be equipped to handle solar panels like the proposed new town hall.

Fire Chief John Rose and several EMTs in attendance were visibly elated at the schematics of the new facility.

Mr. Keenan estimates the construction costs will be $6,758,850 and the total project cost will be $7,991,350.

“I’ve been doing this for about 30 years,” said Mr. Keenan. “Our estimates are pretty ironclad. We’re very proud of that. The town hall in West Tisbury, we were right on the money, in fact we had money on the table. The West Tisbury police station is 40 percent complete, and right now change orders are less than one half percent, $9,000 on a 2.2 million dollar building.”

The next step in the process is to get funding approved at the November town meeting for detailed architectural plans, soil borings, a new site plan, and more detailed cost estimates. The firm is seeking $239,150 for the new town hall and $287,000 for the new fire/EMS station.

Dispensary discrepancy

In other business, the selectmen approved 15 articles for the warrant for a special town meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 12, albeit with some reservations. All the selectmen expressed concern about article 13, the Registered Marijuana Dispensary Overlay District (RMDOD), which was amended on October 9, to include Dukes County Avenue.

“Everybody at the last two meetings, including the police, agreed to keep it out of the business zone,” selectman Gail Barmakian said. “A lot of Dukes County Avenue is illegal according to state law, which concerns me, because it’s within 500 feet of a public park. I don’t want it to get bounced back by the AG [attorney general] because it’s illegal. I understand the Camp Meeting Association is very concerned about this also.”

“Is the Camp Meeting Association going to have a medical marijuana facility? I don’t think so,” quipped selectman Kathy Burton.

“No we won’t,” said Jeff Ferriell, recently elected president of the Camp Meeting Association. “At a board meeting just the other day, the Camp Meeting Association voted unanimously to oppose the proposal to put the marijuana overlay district along Dukes County Avenue, which includes Campground property. This of course is a long established religious community with a child-friendly atmosphere that we think would be adversely affected by a nearby medical marijuana operation.”

Mr. Whritenour said that procedure states that the board of selectmen has to, by law, put the planning board’s request in front of the voters, but the selectmen can speak on it at the town meeting. Mr. Whritenour said he will draft a letter to the planning board in an attempt to get everyone on the same page by the town meeting.

Ending the meeting on an upbeat note, selectman Michael Santoro announced the public fishing pier will be finished by the end of November. According to Mr. Santoro, building was behind schedule due a material shortage that has been resolved, and the finished product will indeed be in the shape of a capital, not lower case, L.