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Four phasing options presented for renovating Brewster Hall

September 15, 2011
WOLFEBORO — John and Holly Grosvenor of Northeast Collaborative Architects (NCA) presented the long-awaited costed options for phasing the renovation of Town Hall at the the Wolfeboro Board of Selectmen's Sept. 7 meeting. Bryant Lehr of Conneston Construction, which helped to prepare the cost estimates, was also present.

John Grosvenor began by pointing out that the construction cost of the unphased Brewster Hall project a year ago was $3.8 million. Despite the recession he said that contractors won't work for much less and the cost of materials have increased, so if that project were costed today it would likely be the same amount.

Phasing the project will increase the total cost, he emphasized.

Holly Grosvenor presented graphic illustrations of the four potential phases. She pointed that the phasing choices get less comprehensive as costs go down.

Option 1: First and Second Floors with Exterior

This option presents the plans and costs for renovating the first and second floors of Brewster Hall plus the exterior of the building. This is essentially the same as the plan presented to voters last March but without the construction of third floor offices and with a proposed new entrance on the Carpenter School side of the building. It includes installing a four-stop elevator to reach the second and potential third floor; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); insulation; and improved electrical and lighting systems.

It includes renovating the Annex and the basement under the Annex plus an adjoining part of the basement in the main building; utilities such as the furnace will be located in the basement, along with storage areas, and the floor areas will be made waterproof. Also included are all exterior repairs, including repointing bricks, replacing windows and repairing the roof structure, and asbestos abatement throughout the building.

The cost estimate for this plan is given at $3,363,971. [Note: A higher number, $3,636,971, is given in the detailed cost worksheet on this option that accompanied the written report. It was not possible to reconcile the two figures with NCA before press time. The figures given for the other three options following do agree with their corresponding detailed worksheets, however. Editor]

The addition of an entrance from the Carpenter School side of the business will reduce costs because the main floor at that level is even with the floor in the Annex and thus provides direct handicapped access without the need of a lift. The current Annex stairs from the parking lot will reamin.

If the missing third floor of office space is needed in the future, it can be added at a cost not specified in the presentation but presumably in the neighborhood of $436,000 (the difference between $3.8 million and $3,363,971).

Not included is any work on the auditorium area of the second floor or the auditorium entry and stairs. This was left to the Friends in the March proposal too.

Option 2: First Floor with Exterior

This option eliminates any work on the second floor included in Option 1, including the elevator. It includes all of the other features of Option 1, including exterior work, renovating the Annex and the same basement areas. The installed HVAC will be expandable to the second floor in the future. Insulation will be limited to the exterior and ceiling of the first level of the main building and Annex.

The cost estimate for Option 2 is $2,894,047 $469,924 less than Option 1.

It was unclear from Option 2 what would happen to the Planning and Public Works departments that currently occupy the Annex. Option 1 provides office space on the second floor even as it eliminates the third floor offices included in the March proposal. The plan illustration for Option 2 continues to show the Annex converted for meeting space, not offices.

Option 3: First Floor Only

This is the same as Option 2 except it eliminates exterior work not directly involved with renovating the first floor and Annex. For example, it does not include the repair of the roof or brick repointing, but does include repair or replacement of first floor windows and door (except the entry doors to the second floor). It also includes the same utility areas in the basements

The cost estimate for Option 3 is $2,000,467 $893,580 less than Option 2 and $1,363,504 less than Option 1.

Option 4: First Floor Only without Annex

This is the same as Option 3 but eliminates the renovation of the main floor of the Annex, leaving it as it is. The plan description includes the statement, "Access restricted to unoccupied Annex and second floor," implying the Planning and Public Works departments will be moved elsewhere.

The cost estimate for Option 4 is $1,857,161. $143,306 less than Option 3 and $1,506,810 less than Option 1.

All four phasing options include achieving full compliance with all building codes as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For example all four cost estimates include $95,000 to install a sprinkler system throughout the building to achieve Life Safety code compliance, even though interior spaces in some options (such as the second floor) will not be occupied. Energy Code compliance includes replacing/repairing windows and adding insulation as recommended by Building Sciences Corp.

The written NCA proposal points out that there is a "phasing penalty" to delaying work until later. For example, the raw cost difference between Option 1 and Option 2 is $469,924 but NCA estimates the added cost of restaging to do work on the site and paying more for materials in the future will add $61,250, making the total cost of adding the second floor renovation later $531,175.

To move from Option 3 to Option 1, would add a penalty from $85,750 to $159,250 (depending on any weather delays) and have a total cost to finish later of $1,522,754.

Because of the low incremental cost difference with Option 4, Grosvenor said NCA recommends Option 3, First Floor Only that includes renovating the Annex.

Board reactions

Selectman Dave Bowers noted that this project is "highly politically charged," though the Chamber of Commerce feels a renovated building would be a boon to downtown business. He advocated "going back to square one" and ask objectors to go over and critique the plan. As for his own opinion, he would do the Annex and first floor but not the second.

He also cited an editorial recommendation in the Granite State News that an effort be made to do private fundraising so that taxpayers are not being asked to pay for the whole project. He said the Smithsonian Institution has a donor program with naming rights to rooms and areas.

Selectman Linda Murray said she has issues with converting the Annex to meeting spaces and thereby removing two departments. She said she is thinking not to do either the Annex or the second floor.

Selectman Dave Senecal said he needs time to look at the detail of the options. To him it is a given that the code compliance work needs to be done in any case.

Public input

Bucky Melanson said the taxpayers don't want to pay for the building renovation. He urged the board to "go private" and start a private building fund. He added that he did not like the "bandaid approach" and asked what the board had done in response to a "bold statement" by Town Clerk Pat Waterman in the 2010 town report. Waterman had cited the poor working conditions in Brewster Hall in urging voters to support the renovation of the building. No one on the board responded to Melanson's question.

Suzanne Ryan asked if addressing the gradual spreading of the roof had been missed by McGinley Kalsow in their plan and whether the fireplace chimney in the Annex would be used to vent the heating system. John Grosvenor replied that the same structural engineer developed the earlier plan and addressed the roof then. He said that the estimate include an HVAC allowance but no specifics on venting, adding that you can now side vent furnaces.

Bob Lemaire stated that if naming rights were made available as part of private fundraising, as Bowers suggested, he would like to name the "Bob Lemaire Tax Collector's Office."

On a more serious note he asked if there will be an air barrier if just the first floor is done (answer: yes, the ceiling will be overinsulated as recommended by Building Science Corp). He thanked NCA for its technical presentation. He was disappointed that more questions were not asked, saying that "we need to be clear on the facts, then bring the proposal to voters and keep politics out of it." Bowers responded that he did not like the use of the word "politics" because it is divisive.

Allen Kasiewicz cited the problems encountered with the Railroad Station renovation, pointing out that the scale of the Brewster Hall renovation is much bigger. He reminded the board that problems were found in the station when work was begun and the town had to come back to the voters for additional funds to finish the work. Murray responded that the town went into the Railroad Station without benefit of studies or plans, which is not the case with Brewster Hall.

Kasiewicz also recommended that the Friends of Town Hall change their name to the Friends of Brewster Memorial Hall and raise money for the renovation. "If we change the focus from bureaucratic center to community center, we would get broader support," he said.

Selectman Chair Sarah Silk responded that she always thought the Brewster Hall renovation would be a public/private partnership, helped by the Friends. She cited the example of the Gilmanton Library which is in a renovated barn that has a list of all contributors prominently displayed.

After some discussion it was agreed that board members would review the plans and information provided by NCA and that the subject would be placed on the agenda for the next selectmen's meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21. The meeting is held in the meeting room of the Wolfeboro Public Library and begins at 6:30 p.m.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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