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New roof, fewer trees

Brattleboro police and fire facilities project remains on track, town manager reports

BRATTLEBORO—At the April 18 regular Selectboard meeting, the Board approved approximately $156,000 in new expenses for the police and fire station projects, including $69,000 for an unanticipated roof replacement at the future police headquarters.

But, the project still has more than $2 million in unencumbered and uncommitted funds, and Town Manager Peter Elwell told Board members the project is “in solid financial shape.”

Elwell provided an update on the police and fire facilities’ construction projects at the Selectboard meeting. Most of that report centered on 62 Black Mountain Road, the building the town purchased from the owners of the Brattleboro Reformer for future use as the new police station.

“Everything is going along well there,” Elwell said — except the roof.

Leaky roof needs a fix

Elwell asked the Selectboard to authorize a partial replacement of the lower roof at 62 Black Mountain Road at a cost of $69,000, and this was unplanned.

“We knew that the roof was not in pristine condition,” and the town would have to contract for repairs “relatively soon,” he said.

But during construction and inspection, workers encountered “many penetrations on the roof, places where things have been screwed into the roof to keep them stable up there, that were not adequately patched over the years,” Elwell said.

This has caused enough leaks into the building that “we think it’s not a good investment” to repair the leaks, he said, adding, “a better investment” is to replace “a large portion” of the lower roof.

“It’s in some pretty severe state of disrepair,” Elwell said, and “it’s important to not have the roof leak into new construction."

Project Manager Steve Horton assured the Selectboard timing is important. The roof should be replaced now, before contractors install new equipment on it.

A new roof will increase energy efficiency, Horton said. The six inches of insulation the roofers will install “will exceed our code requirement” and “give a quicker, better payback” in energy savings than the two or three inches of insulation already there, he explained.

The roofing company offered the town a good price, Horton said. Whereas the market rate is over $15 per square foot, they will do the job for about $10 per square foot, he noted.

“We wanted to seize the opportunity and make this recommendation,” Horton said.

The higher of the two roofs is in better condition, Elwell said, and the contractor estimates it has about five years of life left in it.

Although this wasn’t included in the original scope of the contract, Elwell said he may come back later into the project and request the Selectboard authorize funding of about $90,000 to replace the higher roof, too.

More windows coming

If the project’s solid financial footing endures through the next few months of major construction on this building and the Central Fire Station, it will make sense to “start out at the new facility with a new roof,” Elwell said.

In the last few weeks, contractors completed the extensive steel stud framing and installed underslab piping at the Black Mountain Road facility.

The structure, which had few windows, will have more windows “to bring light into the building,” Elwell said, and crews recently cut those into the exterior.

According to the April 14 memorandum Elwell submitted to the Board, “Work for the next two weeks will include slab infills; more steel stud framing; rough-in of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; and exterior site work."

The renovations, although extensive, are part of the plan for changing that building from a former newsroom and printing facility to a police station.

Elwell explained that one of the reasons this location was selected for this project is that once the Reformer moved its offices to a smaller section of the building, “the rest of the building can be completely gutted.”

Renovations on the modern building, built in 1981 with an addition constructed in the late 1990s, are “faster because they can clear out the inside” and prepare it for the needs of the police department, Elwell said.

If all goes as planned, the Brattleboro Police Department “will be operating from the facility some time in August,” Elwell said.

Although the expansion and renovations on the Central Fire Station on Elliot Street saw some delays at the end of winter due to tardy steel deliveries and bad weather, “work is progressing on schedule,” Elwell said. He noted the contractor “has made up for that time."

One aspect of the project — demolition on the downstairs portion of the station — is ahead of schedule. It should happen in the next few weeks, Elwell said, but was originally planned for June 1.

Additional funds requested

In his April 14 memorandum, Elwell requested the Selectboard authorize additional funds for a radio tower, antenna system, communications equipment, and a station alerting system.

The latter, which is used to dispatch calls to the fire station, will cost $36,694.05. The other items will cost $51,248.

These items were “foreseen but were excluded from the scope” of the construction contract, Elwell said, because his office didn’t have pricing information for them at the time.

Elwell told the Board these items can be handled in a more cost-effective manner by municipal staff, “especially Joe Newton,” the town’s fire alarm superintendent.

Newton and other employees have the expertise to negotiate and purchase the equipment directly from the manufacturers and vendors, thus making the items tax-exempt, and they can do the installation themselves. The town will save about 12 percent this way, Elwell said.

In the April 14 memorandum he sent to the Selectboard, Elwell said, “During the past two weeks, extensive roof work has been completed, most masonry walls have been constructed, and the first floor perimeter slab has been poured."

In the next few weeks, construction crews will construct masonry walls in the new lobby and elevator area, install underslab piping in the new apparatus bay area, continue electrical rough-in, and pour the second floor perimeter deck slab.

Town Tree Warden Dan Adams recently worked with crews to trim and remove a few trees from the Church Street embankment to “remove unsafe conditions,” and “protect the new building addition from damage,” Elwell wrote in his memorandum.

The tree removal was minimal to avoid interfering with soil and bank stabilization, Elwell said, “and because we don’t want to take away trees that we don’t need to take away."

Elwell told the Board he expects all work to be complete, and the building fully operational, by November.

Elwell noted he submits written reports on the police and fire facilities’ projects for every Selectboard meeting, and they are posted at

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Originally published in The Commons issue #405 (Wednesday, April 26, 2017).

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