Town hall rebuild recommended
After nine months of meetings, study, and much debate, the West Tisbury space needs committee has recommended that the current town hall be renovated at an estimated cost of $4.9 million to $5.2 million, about $1 million more than building a new town hall would cost, by the committee's calculations.
The committee cited the town's administrative functions and needs as the most critical and first priority of all the town's space needs over the next 10 to 15 years, which are outlined in a final 10-page report. The vote by the committee, including seven voting members, one alternate and an adviser, was six in favor and one abstention for the renovating vs. building a new town hall, committee chairman Chuck Hodgkinson said Wednesday. "It was a good debate," he said, and added that the committee represented all sides of the issues.
Residents at the last public forum in February also spoke for both sides of the town hall project, but the sentiment leaned toward preserving the historic three-story building on State Road with emphasis on a more energy-efficient structure.
In its report the space needs committee also cited the "social cost" of keeping the present town hall: keeping the historic district and town center alive, close proximity to other town services and features, adequate parking space, septic and water capacity and worry about further development and sprawl if a new town hall were to be built at a town-owned parcel at the intersection of Lambert's Cove and State roads.
The committee has mailed the report to all town voters and will welcome comment at a public forum Wednesday at 7:30 pm, at the town public safety building. The forum will focus only on the town hall recommendation and options, Mr. Hodgkinson said.
Voters also will be asked at the April 10 annual town meeting to approve the committee's town hall recommendation, to ask the selectmen to form a building committee, and to appropriate $150,000 to produce construction drawings for contractor bidding. The town warrant only includes the appropriation because the warrant had to be in before the committee made its final recommendation, Mr. Hodgkinson said. Therefore, at the town meeting the committee will give a brief report and propose an amendment that will include the recommendation to renovate town hall.
"Now it's up to the voters," Mr. Hodgkinson said.
A building committee would be charged with refining and selecting the best, most energy efficient solution, hiring an architect and getting bids for the project.
The committee's report further recommends that bonding to authorize construction be sought at the spring 2008 annual town meeting. The committee anticipates it will take about two years to get to a final design and obtain firm contractor bids, and two years for construction.
The report says renovating the current town hall should include all three floors and that it should be made energy efficient and brought up to municipal and state building codes. A small addition would be required to house an elevator, second stairway and possible new entrance.
The total project cost for a 6,000 to 7,000-square-foot renovation would include the cost for temporary town hall facilities during construction. The projected cost difference of renovating the town hall compared to building a new structure ranges from $700,000 to $1 million for a two-story building and $1.1 million for a one-story town hall. A one-story 5,000- to 6,000-square-foot building at the Lambert's Cove Road site was estimated at $3.8 million to $4.1 million. The committee rejected both options, citing the use of $500,000 in Community Preservation Act funds over five years, which can only be used for historic preservation.
Building a new two-story town hall at the current site would also require demolishing the present building. If a town hall were built at Lambert's Cove Road, the committee said it would probably recommend selling the old town hall and land to relieve the town from the liability.
The CPA funds would help lower the debt service payments, Mr. Hodgkinson said. The committee recommended that the town use 20 percent of its CPA funds for the town hall renovation over the first five years to help reduce costs. CPA requires a town to use 10 percent of its annual appropriation for historic preservation.
The committee has provided several charts in its report to help explain the tax and debt service implications to voters. The projections show that the town's debt service will increase from the present 8 percent of annual taxes to 10 percent in 2010, and gradually decline to 5 percent until 2016.
The committee said the next priority in the town's space needs is building a new 2,200-square-foot police station at the public safety building site in 2014 or 2015 at an estimated cost of $2 to $2.2 million. An addition to the library in 2016 and other accommodations for emergency services, the highway department, and animal control are also included in the final report.