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Selectmen approve modified proposal for Railroad Station repairs

June 25, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Last Wednesday, June 17, Public Works Director Dave Ford presented selectmen with his analysis and recommendations on the four bids received for repairs to the Railroad Station.

Voters had approved spending $145,000 last March for repairs to the town-owned Railroad Station building, "where repairs will include, but not be limited to, replacing the roof, repairing or replacing rotten wood, insulating the building, and scraping and painting the building." Before beginning repairs or bidding the work, Ford had the building inspected. The inspection disclosed water in the basement crawl space, an asbestos-covered pipe, and major structural problems with the floor of the building, which houses the Wolfeboro Nursery School and the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce. The tenants were asked to leave while the asbestos hazard was abated (the nursery school finished out the school year in space provided by the First Congregational Church on South Main Street).

Bids were then solicited for work on the station, broken down into four sub-projects and two alternates. The sub-projects were: 1) attic insulation; 2) new floor and sill for the entire building, as well as any foundation repairs needed; 3) new roof and roof repairs; and 4) painting the building exterior and the interior of the Nursery School and abating the lead paint in the entire building to state standards.

The two alternates were: 1) phase the floor and sill replacement, with the Nursery School taken care of in phase I and the Chamber and common space rebuilt in phase II; and 2) replace dormer window and install new sash.

Four bids were received by the deadline, and the bids were reviewed by Project Architect Art Guadano and Building Consultant Sean Bergeron. The lowest bid, by Bob Bushman of Olde Wolfeborough Renovations, was 40 percent lower than the average of the other three bids and was found to be "not responsible." Guadano recommended accepting the bid of Paul Kimball and Steve Fifield at $162,584, which was $1,773 lower than the next lowest bid and promised completion of the project in 76 days (the longest promised completion was 152 days).

Not only is the $162,584 higher than the $145,000 authorized by voters, but the town has already spent $46,289 of that authorized amount for building evaluation, asbestos abatement, relocation costs, and bid preparation, leaving an unencumbered balance of $98,711. In addition, Ford reported "there are miscellaneous tasks that need to be completed that were not included in the bid due to time constraints (outside drainage, sump pump, electric work, door, fire alarm system) that is estimated at $22,000." Ford also recommended a contingency of $20,000.

All-in-all, Ford estimated that the town is $114,000 short of what is needed to complete the project, based on the bids and estimates given.

In a summary memo prepared on June 12, Ford presented four options for selectmen to consider:

1) Do only the roof repair, painting and insulation (as called for in the warrant article) for a total of $86,485;

2) Raise additional funds to complete the project this year by deferring other projects (Albee Beach at $19,900, Smith River stabilization at $29,000 and energy efficiency projects at $39,700) and find $25,000 elsewhere in the General Government budget;

3) Place the project on hold and request the additional funds next March; or

4) Do nothing and sell the building as is "with the stipulation that the building exterior be restored to keep its historical character."

No one was happy with any of these options. Only the second would allow the Nursery School to return in the fall (Option 1 would not, since the floor and paint issues would not be addressed).

After reading the June 12 memo, Selectman Linda Murray met with Ford and Town Manager Dave Owen to develop a fifth option that would allow the tenants back into a safe building, doing as much work as possible within the available warrant article budget, supplemented with operating budget funds. Any remaining work would be done with additional funds that would have to be approved by voters next March.

The work was broken down into seven tasks, in order of importance:

1) Replace floors and sills for the entire building at one time;

2) Abate interior lead paint and repaint interior;

3) Assure all code issues are met, including minor electrical work, a fire alarm and a second means of egress for the Nursery School;

4) Repair roof and flashing to stop leaks;

5) Paint exterior;

6) Complete roofing; and

7) Attic insulation and other miscellaneous tasks.

Ford met with lead bidder Kimball to break down his bid and reassemble it into the seven tasks. For the critical repairs needed to get the Nursery School and Chamber back into the building safely (tasks 1-4), the cost would be $100,743, of which the most expensive part would be the rebuilding of floors and sills ($72,243). The remaining work (tasks 5-7) would come to $71,840, a price that Kimball agreed to hold until next year, assuming voters approve in March.

The $100,743 cost could be met with the $98,711 unencumbered balance from the original warrant article, supplemented by half of the remaining balance in the Public Works Buildings and Grounds maintenance budget. There is an $8,200 cost for construction supervision and inspection services by the architect, but Ford said that could be paid out of the department's consultant budget. The highway crew would also take care of the outside drainage problem and sump pump.

If selectmen gave the go-ahead for this fifth option right away, the Nursery School could move back in by Sept. 8.

Selectman Chair Dave Senecal said he liked the approach.

Selectman Marge Webster got Ford's assurance that all code issues would be addressed in this option, but then said, "I am really struggling with this" because it doesn't address the outside work needed (paint and reroofing) and because "we are putting money somewhere else when we are not taking care of our employees." Paying for the additional work in 2010 was also a problem for her, "when we are trying to address the town office problem." She said she would prefer to have someone else pay for the repairs and pointed out that, given current rents, it would take 50 years to pay for the total cost.

Selectman Sarah Silk said she supported the fifth option proposal. People have told her that the railroad station should be repaired.

Selectman Kristi Ginter was concerned that the proposal did not address the lack of insulation in the building. Ford responded that insulation could be done if the $17,000 cost were taken from one of the deferrable projects mentioned earlier.

Ginter said she shared Webster's "mixed feelings," adding that she was not happy with the amount of rental income the town is receiving for the building. She said she favored selling the building "outright with restrictions."

Murray countered that the railroad station is being used in ways that enhanced the appeal of Wolfeboro to tourists. It also housed a major public bathroom open to tourists.

Chair Senecal moved to end discussion. "People told us to fix the railroad station. I was in favor of another warrant article to do an assessment of all buildings. We knew there were problems with the railroad station." He added that he doubted selectmen would get approval from voters to sell the building, but agreed with Ginter's concern about insulation ("We should be able to find some way to at least insulate the ceiling once the leaks are fixed") and the adequacy of the rent ("We need to look at that").

Silk made a motion to approve proceeding with the fifth option and commit $100,743 to do the four tasks indicated. Murray seconded.

Both Ginter and Webster said that the board was spending more than the voters had appropriated and Ginter questioned whether the board can do that.

Owen said, "You can."

The vote was 3-2 to proceed with Murray, Senecal and Silk voting in favor.

Ford said he would look into the energy efficiency project referred to earlier to see if money could be found for ceiling insulation in the railroad station.

Other business

Ford reviewed the current water and road projects planned for the summer and in process (see separate article in this issue).

Michelle Fabricant of Downtown Market Grille asked if selectmen would make available the one Hawkers and Peddlers license granted for this year but not used. The board agreed to review the matter at its next meeting on July 1.

Selectmen approved the placement of a plaque honoring longtime Wolfeboro Tennis Director Bill Gibson near the Foss Field tennis courts and a memorial bench on the Bridge Falls Path by Marcia Schneider honoring her husband.

Temporary event permits were approved for a Wolfeboro Area Babe Ruth League Rubber Ducky Race on the Smith River July 18, the second annual NickFest at The Nick on Aug. 29, and a Family Day and Open House at the Boat Museum and Albee Beach on Aug. 1.

Silk announced that the town had won an award for the second year in a row for the most material recycled for towns with populations from 5,000 to 10,000. She congratulated the townspeople for the achievement and pointed out that Wolfeboro citizens recycled more per capita (628 pounds) than any of the other winners, regardless of population size.

Senecal reported that the Carroll County Transit project will have blue busses and will be going out for bids on four each of eight- and 16-passenger buses next week. The buses are being paid for by stimulus funds.

Owen reported that he had submitted a new status report to the Department of Justice on the town's efforts to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He also said the Electric Department had a prebid meeting on replacing the roof and 14 bidders showed up.

In the public comment section at the end of the meeting, Wolfeboro Nursery School board chair Heather Larsen thanked selectmen for approving work on the railroad station, where the school has been since 1963.

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