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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

First portion of bond for police-fire station renovations is approved

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard unanimously approved the first bond for the police-fire facilities upgrade project at its May 21 meeting.

The bond will be for $5 million over 15 years. The funds will cover early project costs such as securing an architectural firm, drawing up early designs, and preparing a construction bid document by spring 2014.

Total costs for upgrading the town’s three emergency services facilities are estimated at $14.1 million.

Breaking the project total into two bonds will likely save $565,000, said Selectboard Chair David Gartenstein.

At its May 7 meeting, the Selectboard discussed three funding options that involved breaking the funding into chunks rather than taking out a $14.1 million bond.

According to Town Manager Barbara Sondag, Finance Director John O’Connor recommended splitting the bond into two chunks: one for $5 million over 15 years, and the other for $9.13 million over 20 years. The Police-Fire Facility Committee has endorsed this option as well.

An eight-member committee of community members, chaired by Robin Sweetapple, oversees the facilities project. Sweetapple said the committee meets weekly and will soon recommend an architect.

The committee also discusses finances and is determined to keep costs down, Sweetapple said.

A group of citizens petitioned the board May 7 asking the project’s costs be scrutinized and reduced wherever possible.

Financing the project will increase property taxes.

The town received 12 bids from architects. The firms were mostly based in New England.

“We got some really good proposals,” said Sondag. “[We’re] very pleased with the quality of the proposals.”

Sondag said plans for the facilities can be changed at any time, but the changes will grow more expensive as construction progresses.

O’Connor told the board that the state bond bank has recently changed its regulations to accept bond repayment terms of 30 years. The change won’t take effect this year, but could be useful for the second bond.

Bonding the $9.13 million for 30 years would add $2 million in costs to the second bond. It would also have the least effect on the property tax rate, he said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #205 (Wednesday, May 29, 2013).

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