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Town to consider new proposal for Brewster Hall

Non-profit would do renovations and town would lease space

October 13, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Selectmen continue to consider options that would reduce the cost of renovating Brewster Memorial Hall or at least minimize the impact on the tax rate.

At their Sept. 7 meeting selectmen had reviewed a four-part phasing plan for the Brewster Hall renovations from Northeast Collaborative Architects. (NCA) with cost estimates prepared by Conniston Construction Inc. (CCI). The costs quoted ranged from renovating the first floor only without the Annex at $1,857,162 up to renovating the first and second floors and Annex (essentially the same plan submitted to voters in March but without the third floor offices) for $3,636,971.

At their Oct. 5 meeting the board reviewed a rough plan and estimate for renovating only the first floor in two phases, as requested by Selectman Chair Sarah Silk. The idea is to close off half the floor and move employees out temporarily, then close the other half once the first is done and move employees back to the first half and do the second half. The CCI cost estimate is $980,000 for just the left half (Tax Collector, Town Manager and finance department). Included in that cost is $575,000 for basic utility improvements (new furnace, new wiring, new water/sewer connections, insulation, asbestos abatement, and ADA compliance).

Silk remarked that the cost is still too high and "we will have to find other ways to fund the project."

Alternate funding

At that point Town Manager Dave Owen spoke about a non-profit company, Public Facilities Investment Corporation (PFIC), he had learned about at a city managers meeting he attended. According to a handout provided by the company, PFIC "specializes in Public Private Partnerships" and has since 1969 completed more than 200 projects in 96 cities in 36 states, ranging from renovating existing municipal facilities (like Brewster Hall) or building new ones from the ground up. PFIC buys or leases the facility and secures all the financing needed to complete the renovation, using a range of low-interest resources such as grants and tax-exempt bonds. PFIC would hire the architect and CCI to do the work.

There would be no up-front cost, but as part of the agreement with the town, the town would enter into a lease with PFIC for 15 to 30 years, effectively repaying the renovation cost. At the end of the lease the facility is turned over to the town.

A Web search found that PFIC is one of three companies that form the Tamkin Companies. PFIC is the one that specializes in government projects. The other two are Tamkin Development Corporation, "a national real estate developer and investor," and Tamkin Renewables Group, which "provides development and financing services for the development of renewable energy and biofuel facilities that use proven technologies."

Owen said the president of the firm would like to provide a full proposal to the board and would come to a meeting to present it.

Selectman Dave Bowers said it would eliminate the upfront cost and its impact on the tax rate. "If they are as good as they say they are, we have a coup here."

Selectman Linda Murray was more cautious, saying the town needs to do "due diligence" on the company. She said she also wanted to see more than one cost $1 million, $2.8 million and $4 million, reflecting the phasing proposals the board has seen.

Selectman Dave Senecal said he was not enthusiastic but felt the board "should look at it."

Silk and Selectman Chuck Storm wanted to go ahead. Storm moved that Owen be authorized to solicit a proposal from PFIC on behalf of the town. The vote was 5-0 in favor.

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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