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Brattleboro presents police/fire plans

Town estimates $400,000 in savings from project tweaks; work set to begin this summer

BRATTLEBORO—The team behind the three-station police-fire facilities upgrades project estimates it has found $400,000 in savings.

The town Police-Fire Facilities Building Committee hosted a meeting last week to give the public an opportunity to ask questions about the $14.1 million project. About 20 people attended the presentation in the Selectboard Meeting Room at the Municipal Center on Feb. 27.

“I’ve been your watchdog on the budget up to date,” said Steve Horton, project manager on incorporating the oversight committee and town’s input.

“The priority being the best value for the money and the outcome being the safety and security for the people of Brattleboro,” he said about the scrutinizing the project budget.

Controversy has accompanied the police-fire facilities upgrade project. Bonding for the project has been blamed for a jump in the town’s property taxes for fiscal year 2015.

The town’s police station and two fire stations, however, have significant health and safety issues: black mold in the West Brattleboro fire station, and in the police station, which is in the Municipal Center.

Modern fire engines are too heavy for the floor and too big for the doors of the Central Fire Station, which also has air-quality issues.

The damp of the police station’s basement damages records.

The two largest cost savings have come through changes to the West Brattleboro fire station and police station plans.

The project team has recommended building a new West Brattleboro station, rather than renovating the existing station.

The project team also decided to build the Police Station addition to the Municipal Center without a basement, said Raymond A. Giolitto, architect with Northeast Collaborative Architects, which is based in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The new Station 2 will be constructed on property adjacent to the existing West Brattleboro fire station. The existing station is undersized, and renovating and expanding it would have required the costly relocation of a sewer tank and emergency generators.

According to Giolitto and Horton, the oversight committee has not decided whether to demolish the outdated West Brattleboro station or to put the building to new use. The exiting station will continue to house firefighters during construction.

Building a new Station 2 will save the project about $200,000.

Steve Phillips, vice chair of the project oversight committee, said renovating the existing station would have been a “money pit.”

“We would have ended up with a building that was three-quarters good,” said Phillips about renovating the station. “If we can get more bang for the buck, we’re doing the town a service.”

Nancy Miller questioned whether having a station in West Brattleboro was prudent given the town’s tight finances.

“I have serious reservations whether we can afford all three sites,” said Miller.

Horton answered that before construction starts, the town will obtain from the contractor a guaranteed maximum price to help keep the project within budget.

Early plans for the Police Department renovations included renovations and expansion of the existing stone foundation of Municipal Center to the tune of $150,000 to $200,000, explained Horton.

“People think basements are cheap, but they’re not,” said Horton.

Phillips told the audience that the committee charged Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland and Horton with evaluating alternative sites for the police station.

All the alternative sites proved more expensive than keeping the police station at the Municipal Center, said Phillips.

Giolitto and Horton also took questions on how the police station addition will affect the Municipal Center’s parking lot.

The town anticipates approximately 40 parking spaces, said Giolitto. The parking lot will also become one-way from Grove Street to Main Street for everything but police vehicles.

Horton told the audience that construction on all three building sites will occur simultaneously. The project team anticipates starting construction this summer. Of the three, the West Brattleboro station has the shortest construction schedule and will likely be completed this year. Central Station should be completed by the summer of 2015. The police station project has the longest timeline and should be completed the end of 2015.

The oversight committee has approved the plans for the three stations and will recommend the Selectboard approve the plans.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #244 (Wednesday, March 5, 2014). This story appeared on page A1.

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