By Lisa Loomis
Waitsfield is applying for $225,000 more in grant funding for its new town office.
The select board, at its April 13 meeting, decided that rather than cut costs for the project, it would first see if more grant funding is available before making cuts.
The lowest of the three bidders for the project came in with a base bid of $1.25 million which was about $136,000 higher than the town expected for the base bid. There are a variety of additions/alternatives that bidders were asked to bid separately. The additional costs of those add/alternatives were estimated at $84,154.
The town has $1.27 million in funds toward the project and currently costs are projected at $1.487 million. The Town Office Design Committee met on April 8 after the town learned that the bids were higher than budgeted to see if costs could be cut.
This week the select board learned that the committee was inclined to wait to see if more grant funding is available. Town administrator Valerie Capels told the board this week that she had applied for $36,600 more in other grants to reduce the budget shortfall. Those grants include a $15,000 grant from the town's community wastewater revolving loan fund, a $15,000 ecosystem restoration grant for stormwater management and a $1,640 grant to cover trees.
"If we get those grants, the budget shortfall will be $181,510 – if we include the add/alternatives," Capels told the board.
"Can we cut this thing down so we can build it if we don't get the grants?" board chair Paul Hartshorn asked.
"If, after we go through the add/alternatives and consider the clerk of the works cost, then we're looking at the $181,000 shortfall for which we'd apply for enhancement funds to the Community Development Block Grant program," Capels said.
The town has already received a $750,000 block grant from that same program and voters authorized the select board to borrow up to $650,000 for the project. The town received a donation of $100,000 to buy the site at the north end of the village where the offices will be built. The town has ready spent $140,000 on planning, permitting, engineering and architectural services.
"So the purpose of this is to look through the add/alternatives and get the number down?" asked select board member Logan Cooke.
"The select board may decide which ones are essential and which are nonessential," Capels said.
"Aren't those add/alternatives there for a reason? Doesn't it make more sense to ask for the full amount and then if we don't get it, reduce the add/alternatives?" Cooke continued.
"That's what the design committee thought. The chance to build this comes along once in 50 or 100 years," said project architect Bill Gallup.
WHY WOULD WE CUT IT?
"If we're satisfied that everything in here has public support and is of value, why would we cut it?" asked board member Sal Spinosa.
Hartshorn pointed out that the town has a limited amount of time to accept or reject the bids. Gallup told him that if the town applies for more grant funding, it would know by mid-May which would meet the 60-day time limit for accepting the low bid.
"Is there a limit to what the grant ask could be? I'd hate to nickel and dime this project to death. I think some of the add/alternatives are important, like paving the parking lot and the type of roofing," board member Kari Dolan said.
Paving the parking lot is a $26,800 add/alternative and upgrading the roofing from asphalt shingles to a standing seam would add $19,600.
"If we lose those add/alternatives are we losing the utility of the building?" Spinosa asked.
"With a lot of these add/alternatives, we're reaching. So if we don't get some of these, will the quality of the building be different? It will be different, more of a Class A product versus Class B product. We tried to make every choice based on what we could afford and decided to reach and see if the economy and bidding market or some other factor would allow us to achieve that reach," Gallup said.
"It looks like we're in a holding pattern until we see where we are with this grant," Hartshorn said.