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Committee presents draft plan and estimate for Brewster Hall

Major effort under way to keep cost close to promised $3.5 million

A CUTAWAY drawing of new latest plans for Brewster Memorial Hall, showing the second level of offices and the reduced-size auditorium on the second floor. The plan by Newport Cooperative Architects for the Friends of Town Hall was presented to the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen last week. (Courtesy of Newport Collaborative Architects) (click for larger version)
October 14, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The Town Hall Advisory Committee came before the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen at its meeting last Wednesday, Oct. 6, and presented the latest version of plans for the renovation of Brewster Memorial Hall along with a preliminary cost estimate.

The construction cost estimate, prepared by Conneston Construction, Inc. (CCI) from plans prepared by Newport Collaborative Architects (NCA), came in at $3.9 million, a figure that does not include the so-called "soft costs" that include relocation expenses and fees.

Last year the Friends of Town Hall and NCA's John Grosvenor gave an estimate, based on square footage and NCA's experience is renovating old buildings, of $3 to $3.5 million.

Grosvenor, who made a PowerPoint presentation on the current plan, cautioned that the estimate did not yet include "value engineering," a process where the architect and construction company meet with potential subcontractors to solicit ideas for ways to reduce costs without compromising design goals. This normally reduces costs by 10 to 15 percent. Also in discussion is whether it is necessary to finish all of the proposed space, since the total square footage is more than the town is currently occupying.

Grosvenor urged selectmen and the audience not to be overly concerned about cost estimates at this point. "The work can be done in the $3 million range," he stated, though he admitted it may not be possible to reach the $3.5 million figure originally estimated to be the top end of potential costs.

Design ideas

The design presented in the PowerPoint presentation was not significantly different from the preliminary plan unveiled last year. Rather than attempting to make use of basement areas, as the original $6.7-million McGinley Kalsow plan had proposed, the NCA plan uses basement spaces only for utilities and storage. Working space is provided instead by making use of approximately one third of the space currently occupied by the second floor auditorium to build a two-level set of offices, the second level of which can be seen in the accompanying cutaway view of the building. This change would reduce the range of potential auditorium seating from 300-350 to 150-175 seats.

The amount of space to be created was also reduced from the original plans by 25 percent, down to 16,000 square feet. This amount of space will still allow all town departments to be in the building.

Grosvenor highlighted the graceful arch that lies hidden by the current auditorium ceiling, and the gable windows that will be exposed in the new design. The second level of offices will make use of the space exposed by removing this lower ceiling, which had been installed to save on auditorium heating costs.

Selectman Sarah Silk pointed out that two of the tall second-floor windows will be cut off at the top by this added second level of offices. Grosvenor acknowledged this, but pointed out that the arched glass tops will still be seen from the street, and the windows themselves will look unchanged thanks to black-painted panels installed behind the glass.

Grosvenor reminded selectmen that the finish work on the auditorium itself would be paid for with private funds. The NCA plan only includes providing the raw space, access by an elevator, and bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The other major change proposed from the McGinley Kalsow plan involves rebuilding the main floor space to two levels instead of one. Grosvenor said that adjusting what he described as two-inch increments across the floor was not worth the expense. Instead, one level change with an ADA-compliant ramp will solve the problem.

The NCA presentation emphasized that renovation costs less than new construction ($250 per square foot vs. $350) and that "Preservation is the ultimate recycling." It also stated that a new green building would take 65 years of energy efficiency to recover the energy cost of demolishing an existing structure and building a new one. Grosvenor said the GSA found that older buildings use 27 percent less energy comparing older masonry construction (used to build Brewster Hall) with modern curtainwall construction. He pointed out that Brewster Hall was built of "superior materials" and has already lasted 120 years.


Selectman Dave Senecal, a selectman member of the Town Hall Advisory Committee along with Chuck Storm, said he was "bothered" at the last committee meeting that the "soft costs" were not yet known, He said he was concerned that they could be "substantial."

When the audience was allowed to speak, Bob Lemaire asked when the public would get access to the plans themselves. He pointed out that out of the total of $6.7 million proposed in the McGinley Kalsow plan, only $5.1 million were construction costs, comparable to the $3.9 million estimated now. Without seeing the plans, he said it is impossible to know whether your are "comparing apples to apples." He said he was also bothered by the costs not meeting the earlier $3.5 million cap comittment.

Grosvenor responded that soft costs are often a percentage of hard costs and said that "we might be able to get down to $3.5 million" but added that "a higher cost would be worth it. Voters will have to decide." He added that they have six weeks to come up with plans that reflect the current construction design ideas,

Lemaire said he was primarily interested in looking at energy efficiency in the plans. He described energy usage in the McGinley Kalsow plans as "way off the charts."

When asked Bryant Lehr of CCI said that his cost estimates on heating/cooling systems were not based on actual plans but one CCI's experience in building the Wolfeboro branch of Meredith Village Savings Bank and the Gilford Public Library, a 16,000-square-foot-project recently completed. The bank building uses geothermal heating and cooling, he said.

Selectman Chair Linda Murray and the board agreed to hold a public hearing at their next meeting on Oct. 20 to accept the building plans prepared by NCA and paid for by the Friends of Town Hall, since they are worth $30,000, well above the $5,000 threshold for gifts requiring public hearing.

Other business

Selectmen approved a reclassification of the Assistant Finance Director position to Finance Officer / Human Resource Coordinator. Incumbent Jeff Urquhart recently received certification in human resources. The reclassification and regrading was done by Thornton Associates, which did the town's Pay and Classification study two years ago.

The board approved reappointing Public Works Director Dave Ford and Town Planner Rob Houseman to the Lakes Region Planning Commission's Transportation Advisory Committee.

The board made a change in its schedule of budget hearings on Thursday, Oct. 14, to enable to board to be present at Carroll County Superior Court for Judge Stephen Houran's hearing on the Wolfeboro Firefighters' case against the town for withdrawing recognition of their union.

Town Manager Dave Owen reported that contracts have been awarded for repairs to the slate roof of Town Hall and ADA improvements to the front and back entrances. Work will begin soon, he said.

Sidewalk repairs on Main Street will resume as early as the week of Oct. 11.

Owen said he has received a revised settlement proposal from the Department of Justice on ADA issues and said it would be on the agenda for the Oct. 20 meeting.

The town Capital Improvements Committee has finished this year's Capital Improvement plan, which selectmen will review at their next meeting.

Silk received a letter praising her efforts on behalf of pesticide disposal. She reminded everyone that the last Household Hazardous Waste collection of the year is Saturday, Oct. 16.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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