After years of designs and planning, two failed attempts, and a global pandemic, Oak Bluffs’ new town hall opened for business on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The big move began last week.
The new building features a bevy of windows, a new HVAC system, and several offices and meeting rooms. The additional space was carefully incorporated into the building’s design to allow for future growth.
The town select board has a brand-new meeting space in the bottom level of the new building. Previously, the board had a long tenure of holding their meetings in the library meeting room.
“We’re not going to run out of space if we expand our services,” assistant town administrator Wendy Brough told The Times during a recent tour of the building.
In 2017, town voters approved $9.8 million for a new town hall, but the following year, two separate bids for the project came in over budget, the last being as high as $11.1 million. A vote to approve an additional $1.3 million was shot down by voters at a special election in November 2018.
Town leaders chose East Falmouth–based Dellbrook JKS as the project’s construction manager at risk (CMAR). Dellbrook JKS worked with Icon Architecture to come up with the $13.4 million cost in advance of the 2020 annual town meeting. By having a CMAR, the town was able to establish a maximum project cost for voters to decide on.
Brough said the town still plans to “warm” the building by getting input from the community on artwork or photographs that can adorn the walls.
“We’re very grateful this is happening; this was a long process,” Brough said, thanking former town administrator Robert Whritenour and the town hall building committee for shepherding the project through the planning and town meeting process. “It really is quite an achievement.”
The project, which was planned to be completed last fall, experienced several delays due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues.
Speaking to The Times by phone, architect Ned Collier of Icon said the project’s primary delays were due to the pandemic and unforeseen conditions with the building’s foundation early on that slowed things down. The delay however, did not add to the project’s cost due to the CMAR process.
“It always feels great on a number of levels,” Collier said. “I’m particularly pleased with the level of commitment from the town to sustainable design and decreased energy costs.”
The fate of the town hall trailers, which were installed in 2018, is still to be determined. Brough said they could be used by someone else; otherwise they will be dismantled and shipped off-Island.
With the new home base complete, Brough said, the town can focus on other infrastructure projects on the horizon, such as the wastewater facility and the high school.
“Now it’s, What’s next?” Brough said.