What will O.B. town hall cost you?

Renovated town hall will cost more, but not by much.

A rendering of the $13.4 million proposed town hall project in Oak Bluffs. — Courtesy Icon Architects

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.


  1. Mr Whritenour said in another Times article that if the 2017 project was built today it would 14 million. Mr Collier says here it would be 16.7 million – ah, what’s a few million when it’s just tax payers money – seriously could OB “leadership” be any more entitled?

    • Entitled is an SSA with a $100 million ticket office going up in Woods Hole. By comparison OB is not “entitled”.

  2. Yep and who needs affordable housing when we can have critically necessary infrastructure with a grand stair case?! How many rentals under $2500 has the Times had in their Classifieds section I say.. and to be fair to pandemic issues.. say August 2019-March 2020??

    I’d bet you could count them on one hand.
    But I’m sure there’s not that many people who worry every six months if they will have a home..

  3. Perhaps now is a good time to examine the Police Budget is it in line with public priorities and needs?

  4. Shouldn’t annual upkeep and maintenance be considered. Oh, wait…this is MV we don’t do maintenance.

  5. In November 2018, Oak Bluffs denied an increase of $1.3 million to fund a new town hall which would have been occupied in time for the Town meeting this next week. Now the very same leaders who lobbied so well to defeat that funding are back, nineteen months later, to provide the Town with a lesser product – a renovated Town Hall – for an increase of $3.6 million over previously authorized 9.8 million funding. That is an increase of 277 percent in 19 months. Just to put that in perspective, that is 5.5% increase per month, compounded. Compare that with the increase in your wages, salary, retirement pay, social security check, or for the home or business owner, the increase in your property value. In the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, within an economy rivaling the great depression, the OB Board of Selectmen are including this for Town Meeting and Town Ballot. Inconceivable!
    Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

  6. Wow, $13.4 million in a global recession. Given the outlook on this summer’s business and associated decline in tax revenue maybe the town could be more prudent with frivolous spending. Hopefully this does not “necessitate” increased property taxes.

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