The proposed town hall project that Oak Bluffs voters will decide on at the June 16 annual town meeting, and later at a town election June 18, will cost the owner of a home valued at $600,000 an estimated $2,887 over 20 years, according to numbers released by the town.
On Tuesday, after speaking with Ned Collier and Stephen Moore of Icon Architecture, Oak Bluffs selectmen, working with a construction manager at risk (CMAR), set the total project cost at $13,380,344. The Proposition 2½ debt exclusion is on the town meeting warrant and town ballot.
A Proposition 2½ debt exclusion raises property taxes for a limited or temporary period of time to fund a specific capital project, like building a new town hall.
In a follow-up conversation with The Times Thursday, Collier said the project dealt with two kinds of costs — the estimated cost of construction (ECC), which includes costs for the contractor, labor, and materials, and the total project cost (TPC), which includes “soft costs” such as architecture fees, testing, furniture, and other fees. Soft costs are not included in estimated costs because they are usually part of the competitive bid process.
Collier said the ECC for the 2020 project was $10.8 million, about $3.3 million less than the ECC of the 2017 project, which would have built a brand-new town hall. The 2020 project is using the existing frame of the current town hall building, but adding a new floor, new offices, new meeting rooms, and several other significant changes.
If the 2017 project was built today, Collier said, it would cost approximately $16.7 million. He added that construction costs continue to rise each year.
“The average of what we call escalation over the past five years has been 5.8 percent a year,” Collier said, noting that in the era of COVID, future escalations are uncertain.
For the 2017 project, the starting annual cost per $1,000 of home valuation would have been 29 cents, or $157.84 for the average $600,000 home. Each year the amount would decrease. The average home would have ended up paying $2,500 over the course of 20 years.
For the 2020 project, the starting annual cost per $1,000 home valuation is 27 cents, or $167.22 for the average $609,550 home. Each year, the annual cost would decrease. The average home would end up paying $2,887 over the course of 20 years.
Town administrator Robert Whritenour said the cost of the 2020 project for the average taxpayer is only slightly higher now, given the rise in property values.
While the 2020 project cost is slightly higher for taxpayers, the cost per square foot ($600 per gross square foot) is lower than the 2017 project ($672 per GSF). There is also a decrease in total square footage for the projects — 21,000 GSF in 2017, and 18,000 GSF in 2020.
“I think the feeling is that we have hit the sweet spot between reducing the square footage and also negotiating to the minimum possible square foot cost to create a good value for the town,” Whritenour said in an email.