BRATTLEBORO >> The Selectboard has approved a $20,000 agreement on an option to purchase the Reformer building on Black Mountain Road where it could move the town's police department.
The agreement "accurately reflects, in terms of the substance, what the threshold dates are and what amount of money will change hands and the intent of the two parties in terms of the potential purchase of this property," Town Manager Peter Elwell told the Selectboard on Tuesday.
"It is possible that, in the further evolution of the next several weeks, that a decision might be made to address the needs of the police department here at the Municipal Center rather than pursuing this purchase of this property," he continued. "If that's the case, the $20,000 will be out of pocket to the town. It will have purchased the opportunity to have that conversation and nothing more."
The option gives the Selectboard time to gauge public sentiment on a plan to move the police department to 62 Black Mountain Road, property currently owned by Brattleboro Publishing Company Inc.
As a stipulation of the agreement, the Brattleboro Publishing Company cannot market the property until March 31, 2016. At that time, the town can pay an additional $10,000 to secure the property until June 30, 2016. Then another $10,000 would hold it until Sept. 30, 2016.
The building's price tag is $720,000 and 50 percent of all option payments apply to the purchase price. The price could bump up to $740,000 if both option periods are extended.
Previously noted was the possibility the town could collect income by leasing back space to the Reformer for its newspaper operations.
"The strategy of Digital First Media is to get out of the real estate business and focus its efforts on the core news business," said Ed Woods, CEO and regional publisher for Digital First Media at New England Newspapers Inc. "Where it makes sense, we've put our buildings up for sale with the hope and understanding that we'd be able to lease back the space to conduct our business. We're in negotiations with the town of Brattleboro to do just that."
Getting out of the real estate business, Woods said, would allow the company to focus more of its energy on creating content and selling advertising around it. He anticipates the process would be a seamless change for readers and advertisers.
The crafting of the agreement involved town attorney Bob Fisher and several lawyers on the publishing company's side, Elwell said. Regarding fair market value, he said the price at $720,000 was on the low range while $740,000 was right in the middle.
Public meetings to discuss projects that will update police and fire facilities begin at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Green Street School gym. The next meetings will be Monday, Nov. 30, at 6 p.m. at the Academy School gym, and Wednesday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. at the Brattleboro Area Middle School's multi-purpose room.
"There's a range of alternatives we'll be discussing from very basic life-safety upgrades that are very necessary at these facilities all the way through total reworking of the three facilities," said Selectboard Chairman David Gartenstein.
The Selectboard will use input gathered from the public meetings when deciding what plan to present voters at Town Meeting.
Selectboard member John Allen thanked all who were involved.
"This has been a long time coming," Allen said. "It was one of our goals in the beginning of the year to get this going."