Public hungry for information on the tax impact of Bow community building project

By SRUTHI GOPALAKRISHNAN

Monitor staff

Published: 01-22-2024 3:50 PM

For long-time residents like John Martin, the lack of action on the Bow community building over the past decade is frustrating.

“We’ve had this building for many years just kind of lingering on the mind. I think it’s just mismanagement when they could have been working on it a little at a time, every year for life-safety issues,” Martin said at a listening session last week.

Town officials say they can no longer put off addressing the issues in the 1959 community center on Bow Center Road because of a mandate from the fire marshal to bring the aging structure up to code or devise a viable plan by 2025.

“If we keep kicking the can down the road, eventually the fire marshal is going to say. ‘Enough, you’re not giving us an answer, we got to do something or close the doors,’” said Chris Andrews, the town’s buildings and facilities manager. “But as long as we have a plan and the town is committed to the plan, meaning they are funding the capital reserves to pay for that plan, that’ll satisfy the fire marshal for the foreseeable future.”

While the repair or construction of the building might be years away, an immediate step is to set aside $500,000 into the capital reserve fund, a matter that will be discussed at the upcoming town meeting in March.

Even if the town opts not to renovate or construct a new building, demolition would cost around $420,000, with an additional $110,000 for asbestos abatement.

The existing community building raises several safety concerns, including the lack of a sprinkler system, the absence of firewalls between gathering areas and the kitchen and the presence of hazardous materials. It is not ADA compliant, and it falls short of life safety standards, severely limiting the use of its space, with only the gym area considered usable.

“This floor is not acceptable to play basketball,” said Danielle Albushies, a committee member tasked with addressing the building’s future.“So there are lots of groups that aren’t accessing this building, it can’t be used in the summer, and it’s not safe to have lots of kids running around in the building with no AC in which they can get overheated.”

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Three plans for the community building were presented at an earlier listening session. However, critical information residents were keen on learning was left out – the tax impact of each option.

“This is a second meeting in the room where the answer to that question is, ‘We don’t know, it’s too hard to figure out,’” said Michael Mayo about the tax impact.

Even a rough estimate of the tax impact was not provided, and the group tasked with developing a plan for the town-owned facility said too many variables complicate the answer.

While the options presented are not final, and the community building committee is looking for input from the town, the cheapest option, at $3.76 million, involves bringing the current building in line with ADA standards and elevating it to meet life safety requirements.

Another option is to improve the existing structure through an extensive renovation, which includes a 7,865-square-foot addition for expanded gym facilities, upgraded bathrooms, adaptable multipurpose spaces, and air conditioning systems. That proposal is expected to cost $6.55 million.

On the other end, the most expensive choice is constructing a $13.41 million structure across the street, which would obstruct the town’s beloved sledding hill.

“You can’t put it across the street. There’s no way you can because the town is going to go absolutely berserk if you touch that sledding hill,” said Martin, with most of the residents in the room applauding in agreement.