By Lisa Loomis
Waitsfield will evaluate three sites to build new town offices or expand the current offices.
Building sites include the Wait House and two barns adjacent to the Flemer Field. The third site involves expanding the Joslin Memorial Library where the town offices are currently located.
This week, the town issued a request for proposals to evaluate the three sites for the suitability to determine which site should move forward for design, permitting, financing and construction.
Last fall a Town Office Task Force was established to begin working on the issue. At Town Meeting last year voters approved $10,000 for the task force. The task force has estimated that the town needs 4,650 square feet of space, broken down as follows: office space (1,250), vault (500), meeting area (600), bathrooms (1,500), utilities (250), storage (150), counter, files (200), entry and hallways (200). Other considerations the task force suggested include space for a break room, public notice area, a 100-plus-year plan with expansion potential and extra space for rental revenue.
At the current location on the lower level of the library, the town does not have enough space for storage, offices, meeting space and vault space. The town clerk needs more space as does the town’s zoning and planning administrator. The offices need better handicapped access as well as a handicapped-accessible restroom.
The task force identified the three potential locations for expansion/construction and presented them to the select board this month. The task force did a preliminary analysis of each of the three sites as part of the request for proposals.
The library and current town offices are in a building built in 1904 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is owned by the town and maintained by the Joslin Library Trustees. The town pays $22,246 per year in rent and prorated utilities to the library.
The task force identified advantages to the current location – namely, it is already owned by the town, it is centrally located and the town could share meeting space with the library. Disadvantages include the location and capacity of the septic system, the existing property boundary lines, parking limitations and the financial impacts of the town leaving the library. If the town leaves the library, town funding will still be needed to maintain the library and make up the shortfall that would occur if the library lost the town’s $22,246 in annual rent.
On the Wait House property, the task force noted that this building is probably the oldest structure in the town and is also on the National Register of Historic Places. It is occupied by five nonprofit or civic organizations, the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce and a visitor center. Advantages of this site include town ownership, proximity to other municipal facilities (school, fire station) and the fact that the facilities could be shared by other municipal and civic organizations.
Impediments identified by the task force include the location and capacity of the onsite septic system, site restrictions from the school, fire station and cemetery, lack of parking and the fact that it is not centrally located. The current buildings could not be expanded and a new separate building would need to be built between the existing Wait House and fire station.
The Flemer barns are two barns on 4.75 acres of ag land adjacent to the town-owned Flemer Green Community Field. The task force considered the location next to the green as an advantage. Disadvantages that the task force identified include the fact that the town does not own the property, there is no existing infrastructure (water/septic), and the property is not connected to the Route 100 corridor.
The request for proposals requires that the company winning the bid will evaluate each site and consider the physical ability of the site to accommodate the proposed use; vehicular and pedestrian access and site circulation; need to acquire rights or property; infrastructure, such as power, water supply, wastewater disposal; regulatory concerns; natural hazards; and any other considerations based on the consultant’s professional judgment.
Timing for the project calls for the contract to be awarded to a consultant by July 25 with a final report and recommendation to the select board made by November. The town anticipates including funds to develop architectural plans when it begins budgeting in January 2012.
If voters approve the budget at Town Meeting in March, the town anticipates seeking public input on designs in the summer of 2012, bringing a bond to voters in March 2013 and beginning construction in the summer/fall of 2013.