An engineering and cost analysis comparing the cost of building new towns offices to the cost of rehabbing and upgrading the former Methodist Church in Waitsfield Village reveals that rehabbing the church would cost significantly more than new construction, to the tune of $720,000 to $820,000.
The Waitsfield Town Office Task Force reported its findings to the select board this week at a November 26 meeting. The task force has been exploring two options. One option is to build a new building on a parcel of land known as the Flemer Farm Stand Site which is located adjacent to the Flemer field with frontage on Route 100.
The second option is to renovate the church, located on Route 100 in the village. Initially the task force was only considering the Flemer parcel but, at the request of village residents and others, took a look at the church.
The total cost of buying the Flemer farm stand parcel and building a 4,892-square-foot building is estimated at $1,612,588. The total cost of buying the church and renovating it is estimated at $2,435,224.
The town has a purchase option on the Flemer parcel to buy the one-acre parcel for $100,000. The church is assessed at $533,300 but might be purchased for less, according to the task force report to the select board.
Construction of a new building is estimated at $1,100,700, compared to $1,236,200 for the church. The church would also need a new foundation for $93,000, plus structural floor, roof and tower repairs for $100,000.
The Flemer parcel would need a new on-site septic system constructed and the church would require a new on-site system. The Flemer parcel has more parking than the church and both allow direct access onto Route 100.
The task force engineering report found that the church has “multiple life safe and ADA code issues that will have to be addressed and the structure will have to be reinforced to carry public floor loadings.”
Additionally, the report found that the church is likely to have lead paint and asbestos requiring mitigation.
The church is larger than the town needs for right now and currently has three apartments in it. In terms of energy efficiency the task force found that a new building and the church could be built/renovated to maximum energy efficiency standards.
In a pro/con section of the report, the task force listed pros of the Flemer parcel as:
-new town offices can serve as gateway to the Flemer field.
-the site is located near school, health center and Wait House.
-a good public building will enhance Main Street.
-the site is large enough for current and future town needs.
-total project cost will be $720,000 to $820,000 less than the alternative site.
The cons were noted as:
-does not preserve a historic structure.
-the site is further from the village center than the church.
Pros of the church are sited as:
-adaptive reuse will preserve a historic structure.
-extra area in the building can be used for expansion or additional meeting space.
-existing architecture is civic in nature.
-the building is closer to the village center.
-development on this site provides public street access to Flemer barn parcel.
The cons of the church include the following:
-the cost will be significantly higher.
-the site is too small to allow for expansion.
-three affordable housing units would be lost.
-retail space near the center of the village would be eliminated.
The town office task force will hold a public hearing to discuss the report and take public comment on December 11 at the Waitsfield Elementary School at 7 p.m. The task force is hopeful that its members can make a final recommendation to the select board early enough that a bond vote on the new town offices could be held at Town Meeting next March.