Town votes for multi-million dollar Town Hall renovation project
By Chris Kopacko, Contributing Writer
Requested by the Municipal Building Committee (MBC), the project aims to make major renovations to the Town Hall building, located at 34 West Main St. These renovations include the restoration of the clock tower, installation of an elevator in the building, replacing the windows and heating components and removing mold and asbestos, among other things. The project was also supported unanimously by the Board of Selectmen.
F. Robert Brown, vice chair of the MBC, urged voters to “seriously consider” the urgency of the renovation project, which was shot down by voters last year.
“We are in a time now when the escalation costs are rising for construction. We’ve been told we can expect at least a 4 percent increase in cost if we hold off for another period of time,” Brown said.
Town officials had previously proposed the Town Hall renovation project in March 2012 during a Special Town Meeting, at an estimated cost of $6.5 million. That proposal was rejected by voters, and the estimated costs have risen to over $7.3 million.
Town Manager Jim Malloy said that inflation was a key factor as to why there is an increase in the estimated costs.
“There are more projects going on out there with a fixed number of suppliers, and so the cost of the project has gone up,” Malloy said.
$200,000 was also added to last year’s estimate, which covers the cost of moving and leasing office space for town officials during construction, something that Malloy hopes will ultimately save the town money.
“I’m hoping that in the long run, because it’s going to cut down the construction period from 18 months to 14 months, that we’ll actually see a savings in the construction end,” he said.
While the article was passed by Town Meeting with a considerable majority, it did not do so before hearing some residents voice their opposition to the project.
Vincent Borkowski, of 114 Adams Rd., expressed his concern of the lack of public knowledge of the renovation plans, and urged the project be pushed to the fall Town Meeting for more public feedback.
“We really don’t know anything about it. If you’d ask anyone around this room, probably they would not have a good idea of what it’s supposed to look like,” he said.
Stephen Faris, of 192 Ruggles St., opined that now is not the best time to renovate, given the state of the economy.
“Everyone knows the economy’s weak … I would urge everybody to vote against this article,” he said.
Other residents voiced their support for the renovation plan. Jody Hensley, of 39 Arch St., spoke of the project’s inevitability.
“To me, it’s a symbol of town pride,” she said. “I want my Town Hall to be something I can be proud of.”
Stephen Doret, of 23 Mill Rd., said the longer the town waits, the more expensive the project would become.
“We’re all practical New Englanders here … I think it’s time we bite the bullet, understand what the impact is going to be, and in the future make sure we don’t let this happen to any other buildings.”
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