Plans for public safety facility in Bow scaled back to $6.8 million
Project managers have cut a plan for Bow’s public safety facility by nearly $1 million and 5,000 square feet, hoping to craft a proposal that will float with voters who rejected its initial $7.7 million price tag at last year’s town meeting.
At last night’s board of selectmen meeting, Bill Hickey of H.L. Turner Group Inc. and his team presented a revised plan that could go back to town meeting in March – a 28,000-square-foot facility that would cost about $6.8 million.
Hickey, along with project design associate Jay Doherty at H.L. Turner Group and project manager James Kimball at Bonnette, Page & Stone Corp., cut a significant chunk of the project’s costs by removing a geothermal energy system and one garage bay from the design.
Other cuts came from scaling back locker rooms, chipping away square footage in offices and holding off on some spaces that would have been used for expansion in later years.
“We then went back to these smart guys, these three smart guys in front of us, and said, ‘Let’s sharpen our pencils because listening to town meeting last year, we need to do something different,” select board member Harry Judd said.
Last year, voters narrowly defeated an initial plan to build a $7.7 million public safety facility that would bring the town’s police, fire and emergency management operations under one roof. The majority of voters were in favor of the proposed facility, but the 189-164 tally fell just shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.
Town Manger David Stack and other town officials went back to the project blueprints to trim the building’s price tag, and last night’s meeting was the select board’s first chance to hear the construction manager’s new estimate on the project the town manager hopes will win with voters this year.
“I don’t know what the reason was why we fell 35, 40 votes short. . . . I would gather one of them is the cost of the project, that there’s a lot that it could be done much cheaper, that it should be done much cheaper,” Stack said. “I truly believe we can’t go below this.”
In May, an inspection of the fire building prompted the state fire marshal’s office to pen a letter to the town manager, listing code violations that included complaints about the building’s original wiring from 1956, its storage of combustible materials and its overnight sleeping quarters for firefighters.
The board was required to bring the firefighters’ sleeping quarters into compliance by November. The select board chose a plan that would convert space in the smaller rescue building adjacent to the fire station into living quarters for the firefighters for now – a project that has cost between $30,000 and $35,000.
But the rest of the building has to be up to code by 2016. So either voters need to approve money for a new building, or the town has to sink money into renovations on the current facility. Renovations to the fire station alone could cost about $4.6 million, Stack said.
While the select board questioned the project managers and discussed the facility for more than an hour and a half, the members seemed appreciative of the cuts made over the last several months. Fire Chief Dana Abbott, police Chief Erin Commerford and emergency management Director Lee Kimball had all given a nod to the plans before the meeting as well.
“I think what (police and fire officials) were getting before was everything on their wish list,” select board member Jill Hadaway said. “And I think this is a little more practical, like, ‘Yeah, we can live with this, that would be great.’ ”
Some questions do remain for the project managers; select board Chairman Jack Crisp asked for more information about the geothermal energy system that was removed from the building’s plans. He questioned whether the added cost of that energy-efficient system now would be worth the money spent to fuel the building in years to come.
“I would like to know cost comparison, a real cost comparison, both operating and construction,” Crisp said.
The board will meet again with the project managers at the end of December to hear that information and move closer to finalizing a warrant article for the March town meeting.
And during the months leading up to a vote, Hadaway said Bow’s residents need to understand that the town has no quick fix to solve the problem of its existing facilities.
“I think that people really feel like there is some sort of Band-Aid that can be done at some sort of low cost, and they need to understand that isn’t an option,” Hadaway said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or email@example.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)