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Public Hearing Set On Town Hall Project

By Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — Samyn-D’Elia Architects of Ashland, hired last May to create preliminary plans for a solution to the space needs of the Bristol Municipal Building, will offer some drawings for public review at the Old Town Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at 7 p.m.

Architect Cris Solomon joined space needs committee member Susan Duncan in giving the Bristol Board of Selectmen an advance look at the drawings on Sept. 21, noting that the design work is still in progress and the plans could change before the public hearing. A work session on Sept. 29 will focus on putting cost figures with the conceptual floor plans, in preparation for the hearing.

Duncan, who had offered the amendment at the 2016 Town Meeting that set the process in motion, and served on the space needs committee when it came up with the recommendation for two buildings, said the committee reviewed the options again with Samyn-D’Elia to see if they could meet all the needs with renovations to the existing building.

Solomon said they are still recommending two buildings, converting the existing municipal building to serve only the Bristol Police Department and building a new town hall on property next door which the town had purchased for possible future expansion.

“We want to create a new center with an inviting front entrance to the police station,” Solomon said, explaining that the driveway would go between the two buildings, with parking in front of and behind the town hall. Police would park their vehicles behind and to the right of the police station.

Earlier discussions had assumed a new sallyport would be built behind the police station, but Donovan said the slope and the presence of a recently installed propane tank would make that difficult, and he proposed placing the sallyport on the right end of the building, which is the current entrance to the municipal building. It also would provide easier access.

The interior of the municipal building would be reconfigured to better serve the police department, which currently is confined to a small section of the building, including the former courtroom and judge’s chambers (the “Bristol Opera House” — so named in order for the selectmen of the time to use money donated toward the building of an opera house for the construction of the municipal building).

Samyn-D’Elia’s plans call for the bottom floor of that section to be converted to storage, with a new night lobby. The upper floor would have offices for the police chief, lieutenants, and prosecutor, along with a conference room and day lobby with receptionist.

The portions of the building now serving as town office space would be converted into locker rooms, training room, a workout area, and work space for officers. On the lower floor, there would be new holding cells, an interview room, an observation room, a juvenile holding area that would double as an officer’s work room, and a large evidence storage area.

The new town office would have a large lobby with reception area, private space for the tax collector to speak with people, and a small conference room for other discussions. The welfare officer, tax records, and staff dining area also would be on the first floor.

Plans also call for a larger meeting room that could accommodate as many as 80 people. Selectmen questioned Solomon about making it large enough to use for elections, but the architect said it would require in excess of 1,400 square feet more, which would be both difficult to do on the site and add significantly to the cost of the building.

The second floor would be dedicated to the staff, from the town administrator to the finance director, assistant finance director, assessor/planner/land use office, and grant-writer, with work space and a conference room built in. There also would be a reception area for those wanting to speak with those officials.

Town Administrator Nik Coates said the town office layout provides flexible space that would allow the staff to reorganize it as needed.

Solomon said the cost and the geotechnical report are still to come, but he noted that the water table on the future town hall site is lower than they original thought, which might make it possible to add a basement to the building.

Selectman Leslie Dion questioned the police station plans that eliminate toilets in the holding cells. She wondered if it would be dangerous for officers having to escort prisoners to the bathroom, but Lt. Kris Bean said they already escort prisoners to the bathroom on the other side of the building, and he did not think it would be a problem.

Duncan said that the plans may be adjusted after they hear from the public, but they tried to think through all of the issues and offer a plan that meets safety requirements as well as maximizing the space.

“We would like this to be the number one priority for the town,” she told the selectmen.

Chair Rick Alpers he is aware of all the concerns about cost, but, “The last thing I want to hear in 20 years is that it wasn’t big enough. I want to do it right now.”

24 September 2017

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