By Lisa Loomis

The bids for Waitsfield's new town office came in higher than the engineers estimated by approximately $136,000 – depending on which of the three bids is referenced.

Town administrator Valerie Capels told the select board that the town has $1.27 million in funds toward the project and currently costs are projected at $1.4 million. At the board's March 23 meeting, she said that the town office design committee is taking a closer look at the bid documents with an eye to cutting costs.

Additionally, the town office design committee is considering a less expensive way to have the clerk of the works work handled. The town office design committee reviewed bids from prospective clerks of the works earlier this month. Those bids ranged from $34,000 to $54,000 and the committee has not yet awarded a contract.

It is possible, Capels told the board, that Maclay Architects could provide clerk of the works services for a lesser price.

She also explained that she had been in contact with the funding organization that provided the town with a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for the town office project and was hopeful that the town can apply for and receive additional funds. Voters have authorized the town to borrow up to $650,000 toward the project and about $140,000 has already been spent on planning, permitting, engineering and architectural services.

"Until somebody decides what can be cut from this, or we get more money, we can't accept any bids," said select board chair Paul Hartshorn.

Capels said that the design committee was meeting on April 8 and would be looking at potential areas for cost savings. The committee last met on March 20 and at that meeting considered areas of cost savings such as getting rid of a drinking fountain, an electrical vehicle charging station conduit, second-floor flooring, second-floor lobby light, a large fan, exterior paths and other items.

"Additionally, before the April 8 meeting, members of the design team are going to meet with the apparent low bidder to see where things can be cut or eliminated or postponed and where other savings can be found," Capels explained.

She told the board that her initial impression after speaking to the funding agency is that "They have wanted us to get to yes on this project."

"I've not had a chance to talk to them about how to pursue an enhancement request for the grant," she noted.

A town office task force committee and subsequently a town office design committee have been working toward this end since 2012. Waitsfield is building its new town office on a parcel of land at the north end of Waitsfield Village known as the Farm Stand site.

It took voters several votes to gain approval for this site, which is adjacent to the Flemer barns and the former Flemer polo field. There was strong interest in having the town rehabilitate the former Methodist Church in the village instead of building a new building.

After three votes and the receipt of a large monetary donation as well as a large Community Development Block Grant, the plan to build at the Farm Stand site passed in the fall of 2013. In addition to the Community Development Block Grant, the town received a $100,000 donation to purchase the Farm Stand site.

When voters approved the project, it was proposed at 3,069 square feet on a single floor with the second floor left unfinished. The cost was estimated at $1,203,788.

Last year at Town Meeting, the town office design committee brought to voters a slightly changed project. This version had had its footprint reduced and included finishing the second floor. The square footage changes from 3,069 to 4,248 with the second floor.

At that time, the estimated cost – excluding design and architectural costs – was $1,181,312.

The three base bids that the town received last month came in at $1,275,000, $1,525,525 and $1,346,588. There were 16 added alternatives such as replacing asphalt shingles with a standing seam metal roof, stone paving on exterior porch floors, glass floor system in the second floor lobby, and granite porch benches on granite column bases. The additional costs of those added alternatives were estimated by the bidders in amounts that ranged from $155,443 to $218,680.