West Tisbury selectmen hear facilities maintenance consultant report

Selectman Cynthia Mitchell weighs in on the facilities evaluation report at the West Tisbury selectmen's meeting of Wednesday, Jan. 4. —Edie Prescott

Updated Jan. 13, 4pm

Here’s the quick news from the Wednesday, Jan. 4, meeting of the West Tisbury selectmen:

  • The town hired independent contractor Louis DeGeofroy to evaluate the nine town buildings and generate a facilities maintenance report.
  • Mr. DeGeofroy discovered many problems, some of which are public safety issues, during the course of the study.
  • Facilities committee members and selectmen discussed how large a warrant article should be on the warrant for April’s annual town meeting, with talk of $100,000 to $200,000 yearly, possibly for the next five years.
  • The two primary issues to confront are the roof and skylights at the Field Gallery, and the “bump” at the back of the library, which is moldy, “with mushroom growing out if it.”
  • The cellar of town hall has a radon level “in the 30s [picocuries per liter],” which will require remediation.
  • Mr. DeGeofroy is gathering all photos, manuals, and anything to do with the town buildings for anyone to view at a Dropbox link.
  • The ultimate goal after the repairs and maintenance are completed over the next five years is to create a formal maintenance schedule.

West Tisbury selectmen met Wednesday evening, Jan. 4, in front of a relatively full house that was largely gathered to hear or participate in the unveiling of the town’s facilities management report. The report described the work needed to repair nine town buildings. Voters at the upcoming April town meeting may be asked to approve $100,000 to $200,000. Comparable amounts might be necessary over the next few years.

Selectman Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter was absent.

Louis DeGeofroy of MV Inspections in West Tisbury led the discussion. Mr. DeGeofroy is an independent contractor hired by the town as a facilities evaluation consultant. He was charged with examining the major town buildings and to provide a detailed report on his findings. The nine buildings analyzed were: Field Gallery, Howes House, the old police station/town hall, town hall, Fire Station 1 on Edgartown Road, Fire Station 2 on State Road, the new police station, the old courthouse, and the library. According to town administrator Jennifer Rand, the West Tisbury school is not on the list because the building is leased to the district, and the district is responsible for its maintenance.

Selectmen Cynthia Mitchell and Richard Knabel said they were pleased with the comprehensive written report, and joked about how happy they were with the 14-page executive summary.

“I commend you for a well-done job,” selectman Richard Knabel said to Mr. DeGeofroy. “You were extremely thorough, and we appreciate that.”

The top two most urgent projects are to replace the roof and skylights on the Field Gallery and to fix the “bump” at the back of the library, which is moldy.

“The library obviously needs to be taken care of — figured out — because we don’t know what’s going on in there,” Mr. DeGeofroy said. “[Local carpenter] Mike Hull thinks it was built improperly — that particular portion of the building.”

“The Field Gallery roof is shot, and the skylights are shot,” Mr. DeGeofroy told The Times after the meeting. “The Howes House had a portion of the building, which is sagging, and they want to lift that back up to find out structurally whether that needs to be done or whether it can be left and just stabilized. The roof can last a few more years.”

Facilities management committee members present were Pat Mitchell (selectman Cynthia Mitchell’s husband), Scott Young, and Manny Estrella (the West Tisbury fire chief). West Tisbury resident Sander Shapiro was also present.

“It’s an exhaustive evaluation of all the town buildings, and there are also photographs online, in case you want to get close-ups of anything,” Mr. DeGeofroy said. “[There’s] a pretty thorough photographic record of every building in town and any problems I found. I’ve been up on top, under, and through all the buildings. I’ve also done a mechanical inventory with models and serial numbers of all the equipment that I found, and I’m doing research into recalls.” (The Dropbox account is available to the public here.)

Mr. DeGeofroy said he will share any maintenance information and any manuals he finds via Dropbox. He has also produced a “tentative draft maintenance schedule” and a “sketchy” capital expense forecast for the major items. It begins with the Field Gallery roof.

“I want to make a database for the town buildings,” he said, “that anyone can go and look at.”

Mr. DeGeofroy also described rotten trim, failing paint, and gutter problems in several buildings, in addition to a variety of safety issues, “primarily electric,” and the need for some alarm upgrades for carbon monoxide and water leak detection.

“We also have no alarm whatsoever at Fire Station Number 1, where we have between $1 million and $2 million worth of equipment stored,” Mr. DeGeofroy said.

Radon ‘in the 30s’ in town hall

“We have radon in the cellar of town hall and the cellar of the Howes House,” Mr. DeGeofroy said. He added that the public spaces at the library “seem to be OK,” but that he is running tests in the mechanical spaces.

“What sort of radon values are you seeing?” Mr. Knabel asked.

“Down in the cellar of the town hall, it’s in the 30s,” Mr. DeGeofroy said. Radon is a breakdown product of uranium. A prolonged exposure to elevated levels of airborne radon can cause lung cancer. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov/radon), the levels of the radioactive gas are measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Radon is emitted by the surrounding geology and by building materials made of rock. Levels greater than 4 pCi/L are considered to be unsafe.

“In the 30s?” Mr. Knabel asked.

“Yes, the library is in the low end of 1 to 2, the Howes House has I think 9 in the mechanical space, and perhaps 7 in the exercise room downstairs,” Mr. DeGeofroy said.

“The good news is, it’s fixable. This is not crisis proportions for employees,” said town administrator Jennifer Rand. “There will absolutely need to be remediation in this building.”

There are currently radon detectors in place on each of the town hall floors, but they must remain in place “for a least three months and a day,” according to Ms. Rand.

Mr. DeGeofroy and the facilities management committee will next prioritize the list of repairs — with public safety issues being “on top.” They will then present the prioritized list to the selectmen. It is unlikely the entire list will be completed in the short weeks until the warrant close date of Feb. 7, but Mr. DeGeofroy and the committee should be able to have their list ready by the April 11 annual town meeting.

Mr. DeGeofroy outlined his plan of action. “Prioritizing, long-term forecasting, and I’m also accumulating as much information about the town buildings as I possibly can,” he told The Times after the meeting.

There was much discussion among committee members and the selectmen about the cost.

“How are we going to pay for this stuff? And what rules govern how we pay [for these projects]?” Pat Mitchell asked selectmen. “Do we go out to bid? Do contractors need to be bonded?”

“The short answer,” Ms. Rand said, “is there is a different answer depending on what you’re doing.”

Mr. Estrella said at the last facilities management meeting on Dec. 29 that the committee told selectmen there should be a warrant article for $100,000 — with the first two orders of business being the roof and skylights at the Field Gallery and the “bump” in the back of the library.

“There are mushrooms and mildew growing out of the side of the building,” Mr. Estrella said.

Ms. Rand added that mold and mildew are always excluded from insurance, but that perhaps the Nauset construction company would “meet us in the middle.”

“My personal feeling is that we need to have a warrant article for a hundred grand every year for the next five years,” Mr. Estrella said.

“I don’t think that’s enough money,” countered Mr. Mitchell. “My feeling about that is a hundred thousand dollars does not buy you very much.”

“How much money are we going to put in April town meeting? A hundred thousand dollars? Or two hundred thousand?” Mr. Estrella said.

No monetary decisions were made, and selectmen agreed to wait for the prioritized list.

“What interests me, as the borrower among us,” West Tisbury treasurer Kathy Logue said, “is what the longer-term picture is looking like, and there is some pressure to figure that out at least on a rough basis fairly quickly, because the capital improvements committee is supposed to finalize its plan this month. Not just the hundred thousand dollars this year, but the magnitude of dollars going forward — even to the nearest $25,000 — is helpful.”

Ms. Logue noted that the town has not spent the money it borrowed last April (which can be expensive, depending on interest rates). She suggested the group manage its project schedules and not have too ambitious a to-do plan.

“You have to think about what we can practically accomplish in a year,” Ms. Logue said. “We have to pace ourselves in terms of what we can manage, as well as what we can afford.”

Mr. Estrella suggested that Mr. DeGeofroy be hired after the prioritized work list is complete “to follow through and make sure things get done, and done right.” Mr. Estrella added that it may be too large a task for building manager Joe Tierney to handle alone.

West Tisbury resident Sander Shapiro, who was present in the audience, but not a member of the committee, added that it is a good idea once these projects are cleared, over the next five years or so, that there should be a formal maintenance schedule in place and that it should be someone’s responsibility.

“That’s the goal,” Ms. Mitchell said.

Mr. Knabel postponed a vote to accept the report due to Mr. Manter’s absence.