It will cost an estimated $91,000 to bring the Wait House back into repair and address deferred maintenance issues the Waitsfield Select Board learned this week in a report from Brad Cook of Building Performance Services.
The board at its January 11 meeting discussed with Cook his detailed assessment of the several buildings that make up the historic Wait House complex at the north end of Waitsfield Village.
“There’s a lot of deferred maintenance, a number of items that need repair and some things that are upgrades. The biggest deferred maintenance is primarily the outside paint with a few areas of rot and deteriorated wood,” Cook explained.
He also raised questions about the boiler that was installed in 2011, noting that there is no indication that any service has been performed for it. Cook said he last assessed the building in 2010 and found many of the same unresolved issues with his latest inspection.
Beyond issues like lack of heating return vents and lack of insulation around the elevator shaft roof, he said that the unconditioned spaces in the building -- the barn and a storage area – are in the worst shape.
“They’re just falling apart. They’re full of a lot of junk/stuff that’s accumulated over the years, stakes, trash barrels and scraps of wood, fencing. I can see that there is rot in the building. Powder post beetles are very prevalent that need to be exterminated,” Cook said.
Cook also raised concerns about some areas of the second floor where there are some issues with the plaster and lathe walls.
“There’s something going on there with the walls. I’ve been told that in the planning district office that heavy bookcases were against the walls. I really wonder if that is a contributing factor or is there something else going on? It’s worth getting a structural engineer to see what’s holding up the second floor and what is causing all these big cracks,” he said.
Board member Jordan Gonda asked if there was a recent inspection by the fire marshal and Cook said no. He pointed out that longtime anchor tenant the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce moved out because of the conditions in the Wait House.
“If you invest in the maintaining the building you could rent it out at better premium,” Cook said.
Board member Brian Shupe asked Cook if the highest priority items came in at about $50,000 and Cook said yes. Board member Jon Jamieson noted that the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
“We’ve got this building. There is no other building in Vermont that has more historical significance. We put in funding for this with our partner organizations and they’re not doing much to help carry the load,” Jamieson said, referring to the Waitsfield Historical Society.
“Can we sell this building? Get rid of it?” asked board member Kellee Mazer.
“We’d have to add 2.5 cents to the tax rate if we were to do the work that Brad identified,” said board chair Paul Hartshorn.
“That work doesn’t make the building any more usable or more attractive,” Jamieson pointed out.
The board will put together a study committee to come up with some new plans for the building that includes tenants, someone from the historical society and someone from the select board with an eye to meeting in the spring and exploring options, something along the lines of a design charrette, urged Jamieson.