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Space Needs Committee Forced To Reconsider Position

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Concerns about drainage and escalating cost estimates associated with proposed building projects forced the Bristol Space Needs Committee to hold an emergency meeting after it had completed its recommendations to the town.

The committee had been unanimous in recommending the construction of a new town hall on a lot adjacent to the current municipal building, and renovations to the existing building to better accommodate the police department. However, just before submitting that report to the selectmen, architect Brackley Shaw and engineer Michael McNally raised concerns about the drainage on the so-called Smith lot and the additional runoff from a larger parking lot.

Shaw told the committee on Nov. 22 that including a basement on the new town hall would be problematic because of drainage issues, and said doing it properly would cost $300,000. As an alternative, he suggested extending the building by 10 feet to accommodate the storage needs of the town, saying that would add $122,000 to the building cost.

Shaw also suggested installing an elevator in the existing municipal building, saying there should be a public area at the police station.

McNally said there should be an additional catch basin for parking lot runoff, but the State of New Hampshire is reluctant to approve requests that would add to the load of the storm drains along the state highway. As an alternative, the town could look at a pervious pavement that allows water to drain through the surface and into underground chamber systems that would dissipate the runoff.

Those options could drive the price of the combined project beyond $2 million — something the space needs committee opposed.

Chair Edward “Ned” Gordon said, “We need to look at what we can afford, and what we can accomplish with that amount,” adding, “We want to avoid going to the town four years in a row,” a reference to past attempts to pass big-ticket building projects at town meeting.

Police Chief Michael Lewis said of the police station, “The lobby doesn’t need to be overwhelmingly inviting, just functional. I think this town can afford paint and putty,” adding, “As the chief of police, I’ll do all I can to make that building functional.”

As to the town office needs, Lewis said the town could purchase the former Mid-State Health building on Lake Street for $200,000. “The office is 1500-square-feet now, and it’s functional except for storage,” he said. The Mid-State building has 3,000 square feet of space.

Committee member David Carr suggested focusing on a new town office building and delaying work on the police station, while selectman Paul Manganiello suggested phasing in the work by first addressing the site work on the Smith lot, and building later, after some of the town’s current debt is retired.

Gordon said he had considered building an addition onto the existing building to provide the necessary records storage and space for the police department, but asked, “How do you do it with people in it?”

Lewis, saying the work the committee had done was valid, questioned Shaw’s cost estimates as well as the scope of work proposed, and said hiring a local contractor could bring the costs down even more. “A $1 million success is better than a $2 million failure,” he said.

Shaw defended his cost calculations, saying he used a larger per-square-foot cost to take into account challenges such as the drainage. He also said most local contractors are not prepared to handle the specifications for municipal structures. “It’s better to start with a number that may be a little too large than to go back and say we need more,” he said.

With the committee agreeing it needed to limit the cost to something in the $1.2 million range for the two buildings, Shaw said, “There are a million ways to make a building smaller and more efficient.”

Shaun Lagueux, speaking as a taxpayer rather than as the chair of the Bristol Board of Selectmen, said, “I’m very confident that, if you said $1.2 to $1.3 million, the selectmen could make that project work. … As a taxpayer, I couldn’t support $2.3 million. The townspeople are reasonable, and they know the [space] problem exists.”

The space needs committee planned to submit its final recommendation by the Dec. 1 deadline set at the March Town Meeting.

24 November 2016

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