Not the best option for the town
Editor of the Reformer:
The town of Brattleboro is considering options for the police station. One alternative is to purchase the Reformer building on Black Mountain Road.
Although this alternative is estimated to cost approximately $1 million less than renovating Town Hall, there are other costs and considerations that make investing in the Town Hall for the police a better alternative than purchasing additional real estate. In addition to the renovation cost, the 22,562-square-foot Reformer building would have operating costs'for utilities, cleaning and maintenance. Based upon typical operating cost per square foot this would amount to $70,000 to $100,000 per year. These cost do not include other capital needs for this 35-year-old building such as window replacements, roof, pavement and boiler repairs. Over the life of a 20-year bond the value of the annual operating costs alone would exceed the $1 million saving in renovation cost.
Purchasing the Reformer building would also result in 18,000- to 20,000-square-feet of extra space between the two buildings that the town is not using. Some of that space is proposed to be rented by the Reformer and the town hall currently has a few tenants of its own, but one must assume the town will seek tenants to fill the remaining vacant space. It is not uncommon to spend up to $50 a square foot to renovate a space for a tenant which would potentially result in an additional $1 million in latent construction costs in order for the town to fully rent out both buildings. Unfortunately, Brattleboro already has a significant amount of vacant office space. Since these privately owned buildings need to pay property taxes and cover debt it does not seem appropriate for the town to be competing for the same tenants.
Regardless of the police project the town hall is in need of a deep energy retrofit. The police station project should be used to help upgrade the building we already own but it needs to be done in a way that maintains the historic integrity. In order to reduce the renovation cost and to develop a historically sensitive addition the project should re-use as much of the current building as possible. It should consider using space that is currently rented, basement space under the addition, and limit the program to essential elements so that the addition can be as small and historically sensitive as possible. At some point we will need to renovate the town hall; we should use this project to start that process without acquiring more space to be maintained and repaired.