BRATTLEBORO -- About a dozen people came out to a public information session Thursday to look at the designs and floor plans for the town's $14.1 million renovation project for the police and fire stations.
The information session followed a meeting of the Police-Fire Facility Building Committee, which approved the plans earlier in the night.
The committee will now bring the designs and plans before the Selectboard on March 4 for final approval
"We're here tonight to show the plans and inform you of the progress we have made," committee Chairwoman Robin Sweetapple said at the beginning of the information session. "We have been meeting and recommending changes for about a year, and some of those changes have saved us significant amounts of money."
Town Meeting Representatives approved the $14.1 million project in October 2012 and the Selectboard appointed the oversight committee in April 2013 to work with Project Manager Steve Horton and the department heads on the plans and construction.
At the meeting Thursday Horton and project architect Ray Giolito gave an overview of all three projects, which include the police station at the municipal center, the Elliot Street central fire station and the West Brattleboro Fire Station.
Horton pointed out a number of the changes that the oversight committee have approved since conceptual plans were presented to Town Meeting Representatives prior to the vote.
Originally the town thought it would renovate the West Brattleboro, but the Horton and the committee determined that it would be cheaper to tear down the existing station and build a new structure from scratch.
The police station was going to get a refurbished basement, but it was cheaper to add the extra square footage on ground level, so the police station extension on the municipal building is a little larger than originally estimated.
And the traffic and parking patterns at the municipal building were in turn affected by the bigger police extension.
Horton was asked questions about the committee's work to ensure that the new buildings were energy efficient and he said the oversight committee has been working with town energy committee throughout.
Giolito said engineers were still doing cost estimates on what energy saving steps would make the most sense.
"We are looking at the options now," he said. "The building will be tight."
Committee Vice Chairman Steve Phillips said the committee was asked if it would have made more sense to build a new police station on a different site.
Phillips said that option was investigated, but it was determined that it was most cost effective to renovate the facility at the municipal building.
"We did not want to give the green light to a project that wouldn't give us the best value," he said.
Police Chief Gene Wrinn and Fire Chief Mike Bucossi both said they have been working with the committee from the start, and they said the redesigned buildings adequately address all of the health and safety issues that drove the town to take on the project.
Nancy Miller asked if building a new station in West Brattleboro would, in fact, save the town money.
"I was a skeptic too," said Phillips. "Budgetary concerns have been a big focus of this committee. I am convinced that renovating the existing station would have been a money pit."
Horton said construction on all three buildings should begin in June.
Work on the police station and municipal station is expected to take about 15 months.
Renovations on the Elliot Street central fire station will take about a year to complete, while it will take about six months to build a new station in West Brattleboro.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.