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Selectmen agree to work with Friends on Town Hall

Senecal and Webster need convincing on costs

April 29, 2010
WOLFEBORO — After three years of abortive proposals and counterproposals for new or renovated town offices, selectmen were asked once again on April 21 to support another effort this time focusing exclusively on the current Town Hall building, Brewster Memorial Hall.

Joyce Davis of the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall came before the board of selectmen to offer the Friends' help in coming up with a proposal for the renovation of Brewster Hall to be placed on the March 2011 ballot. She reviewed the eight studies that have been done in the past 12 years on the Town Hall building, beginning with a Code Compliance Study by A.G. Architects in 1998 and ending with three studies done in 2009: the Yerhot Environmental Solutions Indoor Air Quality Testing; the Physical Hazard Survey done by the town's insurance carrier Primex and the Health and Safety Audit by the N.H. Department of Labor.

Davis also pointed out the detailed architectural plans for building renovation done in 2008 by McGinley Kalsow and the conceptual plan done by John Grosvenor of Newport Collaborative Architects in 2009.

"Based on the volume of information that exists regarding the condition of the building, the planning that has already occurred, the demonstrated need for improved facilities and the results of previous years' voting," Davis said, "the Friends believe it is the right time for the town to move forward on a warrant article for the full repair and renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall."

Specifically, Davis proposed that the Friends work with board of selectmen and town staff to develop a costed proposal based on 2009 conceptual plan, using the services of Grosvenor to refine the plan to meet the town's requirements.

"The voters will support a plan for Brewster Memorial Hall that creates modern, energy efficient, cost effective office and meeting space for town employees and the citizens of Wolfeboro," Davis said. "The Friends believe that a warrant article for the full repair and renovation of Town Hall should be developed to appear on the March 2011 ballot.

"We are here tonight to ask the board of selectmen to consider our offer of help and agree to move forward to develop a proposal for 2011," she concluded.

Selectmen respond

Selectman Sarah Silk supported the idea of moving forward with the Friends. "We have studied this to death," she said, and have considered other options. "I want to urge that we move ahead."

Selectman Chuck Storm said he wants to see the space needs "tightened up" by working with Town Manager Dave Owen and town employees to determine present needs in square feet with some room for growth. He also said he thought a group should be established by the selectmen to work on this project. He also supported putting a proposal on the March 2011 warrant.

Selectman Dave Senecal was more skeptical. He pointed out that there is no money in the budget to develop plans. Davis responded that the Friends are prepared to spend money to bring the proposal forward. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization the Friends can raise money but said it is hard to do fundraising if it is not clear that the board of selectmen is committed.

Senecal said he is not convinced that the estimates given were enough to do the work and that included the $110,000 approved for repairs to be done this year. However, he said he was willing to work with the Friends to be convinced that any estimates developed are firm. His other concern was that there may not be enough time to develop a firm proposal for next March.

Silk pointed out that the process is not "starting from ground zero." The conceptual plan from Grosvenor was based on sound data. "This is totally different from the railroad station because we have lots of information." Davis agreed.

Selectman Marge Webster said she admired Davis' passion for the project (the "unyouth passion" she called it), however, she shared Senecal's concern that the board be able to assure voters that the costs will not exceed a certain sum.

Richard O'Donnell of the Friends agreed with Storm's point about looking again at the space actually needed. "We don't want to create unused space." Addressing Senecal's concerns he said, "We can guarantee a top number like $3.5 million based on using construction management." He said that the Friends have a guarantee from CCI, the construction company, to come up with a plan once the square footage is set. "I don't think we need 19 to 20,000 square feet." The Grosvenor plan did not change the first floor, where the town offices current are located, but added space on the second floor on the assumption that the space was needed for the planning department.

O'Donnell said the Friends would like to work together with Senecal and Webster under a $3.5 million cap to come up with a good plan.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray said she has always felt that a public/private partnership was needed to do this project and she welcomed a partnership with the Friends. She pointed out that work on Brewster Memorial Hall has always received the most votes, but agreed with Senecal and Webster that the town needs to get solid figures and actively sell the idea.

Town Manager Owen said "from a staff perspective, the space needs have already been studied several times. "I don't think you need to start over, but reconfirm the estimates."

Storm moved that the town reconfirm space needs with staff and that the chairman appoint a group to work with the Friends. The motion passed on a vote of 5-0.

Murray appointed Senecal and Storm from the board to work with the Friends and appointed Owen to lead the staff, set a date to start and report back to the full board regularly.

Garnett Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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