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Waitsfield voters will weigh in on a bond vote proposal to fund up to $650,000 for new town offices at the Farm Stand site in Waitsfield Village on Tuesday, July 30. Voters will also be asked to authorize a loan of $200,000 to extend the municipal water project to Eagles Resort.
While the bond for the town office project is asking for up to $650,000, town officials received a final estimate on the cost of the project this week that brings the actual voter contribution portion of the project in at $453,787. The town has received a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant to use towards the project, which, with the taxpayer-funded $452,787, brings the total cost of the project in at $1,203,787.
Town voters turned down a $1.6 million bond vote for the project at Town Meeting prompting the town to shrink the project in size and scope. In the interim, the town also received word that it had been awarded the $750,000 grant.
While the select board has worked on the proposal for the Farm Stand project, there has been a contingent of residents who oppose the construction of a new building in the village and would like to see the town rehabilitate or renovate the former Methodist Church in Waitsfield Village. Initial cost estimates brought rehabbing the church in at $2.4 million.
This spring, after the Town Meeting bond vote failed, the select board revisited the idea of the church and asked Bill Maclay, the architect who had worked with the Town Office Task Force to bring the first bond vote, to both scale down the Farm Stand proposal and to similarly scale down the church project. After the town received notice of the $750,000 grant, the board asked professional estimator Henry Erickson to create updated cost estimates for the scaled-down version of both projects so that voters could cast informed ballots.
Then a third proposal was offered by church supporters, which is a proposal drawn by architect Ellen Strauss that offered a historical adaptation of the church, versus the Maclay Architects rehabilitation of the church. The select board asked Erickson to work with Strauss and church supporter, architect Bob Burley, to create an estimate for that project.
Erickson presented his final estimates to the select board and the public at a July 22 meeting. The bottom line cost for the Maclay version of the church was $1,755,847 and for the Strauss version of the church, $1,595,226. The Farm Stand cost of $1,203,787 will be mitigated by the $750,000 block grant.
That grant was awarded specifically to the Farm Stand project, although when the town applied for it, it applied for the Farm Stand and church simultaneously. All three estimates include a contingency fee that ranges from $177,815 (Farm Stand) to $133,027 (Maclay church estimate) to $117,511 (Strauss church estimate).
At this week's select board meeting the board also heard projections about estimated energy costs for all three proposals for the next 20 years, given a 2 percent annual increase in energy costs. Heating the Farm Stand for 20 years was estimated to cost $9,000. Heating the Maclay version of the church was estimated to cost $22,000 and heating the Strauss version of the church was estimated to cost $80,000.
In addition to the vote on the town office bond, voters will also be asked to authorize the town to borrow $200,000 to extend the municipal water project to Eagles Resort. The wells at the resort are no longer producing and the town's water commission is working to extend the water main under Route 100 (from its southernmost point at the entrance to Fiddlers Green) and under the Mill Brook to Eagles Resort. The USDA will loan the town the money for engineering and construction and the user fees from Eagles Resort will cover the payback of that loan. Adding 18 more Equivalent Residential Users (ERUs) to the system will lower the costs of all water system users by increasing the water user base by 9 percent.
Voters can cast absentee ballots at the current town offices until 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 29, and the polls will be open for voting at Waitsfield Elementary School from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 30.