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West Brattleboro fire station could be demolished

Construction options under review in light of electrical, heating, mold issues

BRATTLEBORO—The project team behind the $14.2 million Police-Fire Facilities upgrade project reports a potential savings of $220,000. The team is exploring demolishing the West Brattleboro Fire Station, described as problematic, and rebuilding it nearby.

“These are preliminary numbers,” cautioned Fire Chief Michael Bucossi.

Project manager Steve Horton echoed the chief’s caution.

If the project team’s preliminary suggestions come to fruition, the team would tear down and rebuild the West Brattleboro Station.

Original designs from Montpelier-based Black River Design called for renovating the station’s first floor and erecting an addition. These plans required relocating an oil tank, a Vermont Yankee emergency siren tower, a septic tank, and an emergency generator to the tune of $100,000.

Leaving these items untouched would save the project money right off the bat, said Bucossi.

According to Horton, the existing station suffers from outdated electrical and heating systems and a potentially dangerous mold issue.

Mold often points to insufficient insulation, resulting in condensation which produces “miniature rainstorms” inside the structure, Horton said. He added he started to question whether the building was worth saving.

Options for rebuilding the West Brattleboro station include relocating the building to an adjacent gravel parking lot owned by the school district.

“Very preliminary” discussions have started with the school board over buying the property, said Horton.

Another option: rebuilding the station on its current lot, but bigger and further back from the road, Horton said. He said both options keep the 3,500 square-foot building footprint as drawn up in Black River’s original designs.

Bucossi said he preferred relocating the station to the adjacent gravel lot. The existing station could remain in operation during construction. The town would not need to house firefighters during construction either, he added.

The $14.2 million facilities project encompasses upgrading the town’s two fire stations and its police station. All were found inadequate to their purpose and even exposed emergency responders to some risk.

Town Meeting Members approved the project in 2012.

Original estimates set renovations for the West Brattleboro station at $1.2 million.

Horton said the project remains in the early schematic design phase. Horton is working with DEW Construction Corp. of Williston, which merged last year with MacMillin Construction, of Keene, N.H. MacMillin was the firm behind renovations at Brattleboro Union High School and Brattleboro Middle School.

The project team has entered phase two of an environmental assessment study for the Dunnell property, site of a former dry cleaner located behind the Central Station on Church Street.

DEW also is reviewing Black River Design’s preliminary project designs and cost estimates. Its own overall project bid came in $200,000 less than that of Black River Designs, for a potential savings of $420,000.

Even with these options, Black River Design’s cost estimates “seem valid so far,” said Horton.

The board will consider the project team’s suggestion and whether to green-light the recommendation, said Horton.

Horton wants to give the board and community time to digest the new suggestions, which he said represent a significant departure from the original designs.

He noted that voters approved repairing and building an addition to the existing West Brattleboro station, and that he wanted to make sure the public had time to review and weigh in on any changes.

Taxpayers have turned out at Selectboard meetings to press for keeping project costs under $14.2 million.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #224 (Wednesday, October 9, 2013).

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