• Architects offer options for Waterbury facility
     | February 15,2013

    WATERBURY — Five options for a new municipal building at the Waterbury state office complex range from $6.94 million to $7.98 million, which are acknowledged to possibly be underestimates.

    While community officials will seek some $1 million in disaster recovery funding, some town and library officials have suggested they’ll take a bottom-line approach to evaluating the proposals for a facility.

    Montpelier-based Black River Design Architects presented rough sketches and cost estimates Wednesday during a town, village and library “triboard” meeting.

    Despite the costs, Select Board Chairman John Grenier said he hasn’t seen anything that rules out the proposed state office complex as the location, a statement that drew support from Select Board member Chris Nordle. Village President P. Howard “Skip” Flanders said there haven’t been any reasons presented so far to stop pursuing the plans.

    Community leaders have eyed Stanley and Wasson halls at the state office complex as possibilities for a new municipal complex for the Waterbury Police Department, Waterbury Public Library, town and village offices, a community space and Waterbury Historical Society.

    Other sites in the community, however, had been seen as possibilities, and Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk told the boards Wednesday that land behind the current library was authorized by the federal government for use.

    The proposals showed how Stanley and Wasson halls could be demolished to make way for new construction or raised more than 5 feet above ground level and renovated to withstand a 500-year flood, thereby meeting Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements, said staff from the firm. Three options showed how portions of the buildings could be reused, and two called for new construction.

    “We’ve been asked to look at these two buildings on the state campus, Wasson Hall and Stanley Hall, and figure out what would … basically be the economic implications of trying to lift these buildings,” a principal with the firm, Jim Drummond, said at Wednesday’s presentation.

    The estimates reflect nearly the full cost, Drummond said. The plans as first presented don’t include increases associated with general site conditions, site work or “soft” costs, which can include expenses like fees and permits.

    Nordle said after the meeting that several thousand dollars in added expenses could occur but millions of dollars more would be unlikely.

    The new municipal complex could provide expanded space for several occupants, including the Police Department. The architecture firm made the department’s space larger than currently needed to allow for the possibility of a townwide police department, said Drummond, whose firm met with municipal, police and library representatives to develop the proposals. In November, voters prevented the village department from being permanently abolished by roughly a 2-1 margin.

    Select Board member Chris Viens suggested the initial sticker shock may be too much. He wondered aloud how much of the cost could be offset, such as through village and library property being sold. Shepeluk also said the Waterbury Public Library has also had a capital campaign in mind as part of the process.

    Viens said after the meeting that he thinks there could be more cost-effective alternatives.

    Drummond said the options were just exploratory. “They’re sort of experiments,” he said. “We know what the wish list is.”

    While Waterbury officials said Wednesday they’ve had no word yet from the state about how much the property might cost, they suggested it could range from nothing to any amount.

    “It’s not zero,” John Ostrum, a project manager for the state who was in attendance, said with some candid humor.

    Although most of the designs sought to keep the library on one floor, placing it on two floors would save on construction costs. Or if architects rearranged program spaces in a clustered manner, heating costs would be less in the longrun.

    But in response to one person’s question, library officials explained that certain setups such as two floors could require more staff.

    Another complication is the length of time to raise the buildings if officials decide to reuse parts of them. Drummond said it’s not like lifting a house and moving it across the street, and that the process could take six months.

    A public hearing will be held from 9 to 10 a.m. on Town Meeting Day at the Thatcher Brook Primary School gym before the 10 a.m. floor meeting there.

    The hearing is a necessary step to apply for the community development block grant disaster recovery money, but village, town and library officials are not committed to this site and can still examine alternatives.

    Residents also will have 15 days to look at the designs and give feedback. Comments would be due by March 15, said Barbara Farr, Waterbury’s long-term community recovery director.

    Waterbury is pursuing an aggressive timetable for the $1 million grant because the application process is competitive. Waterbury Community Planner Steve Lotspeich said about half the money the state has available has been awarded so far. Each month, more awards are determined. “At some point the state is going to run out of disaster relief recovery money,” he said.

    The village, town and library boards passed a motion Wednesday to continue investigating designs with Black River Design and allow municipal officials to post legal warning notices.

    Harriet Grenier, the Library Commission chairwoman, expressed enthusiastic support for Option E, in which Stanley Hall would be demolished for a $7.2 million newly constructed building. The new building would have a layout similar to the shape of a boomerang from a top view. The building would be raised about a story high, allowing a parking garage underneath, and a one-floor library would be oriented in a way that maximizes daylight.

    david.taube @timesargus.com

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