The proposed fire station for West Brattleboro.
The proposed fire station for West Brattleboro.

BRATTLEBORO -- The Brattleboro Selectboard has approved the design plans for the $14.1 million renovation of the police and fire stations.

The board on March 4 unanimously approved the detailed architect's drawings and floor plans, which will now be turned into construction documents in preparation for a bidding process which is scheduled to be held this spring. Brattleboro is moving forward with its plans to completely renovate and modernize the downtown and West Brattleboro fire stations and the police station at the municipal building. The town hopes to begin construction in July.

Project Manager Steve Horton and Ray Giolito, of Northeast Collaborative Architects, presented the pans to the Selectboard Tuesday.

"We're coming here tonight to provide a brief presentation and then ultimately to ask for your approval to continue to proceed with these design concepts and specifications," Horton said. "There will be another milestone in mid-May when we will come to both the building committee and the Selectboard to ask for approval on the design and details before we go out to subcontract bidding."

Though the full board ultimately approved the designs, Horton and Giolito faced some tough questions and criticism from some of the board members.

Selectboard member David Schoales said he had problems with the proposed size of the West Brattleboro station. Schoales said the height of the building would cause it to dominate the landscape and he said he wondered if the department could survive with only two garage doors instead of three to save money.

Schoales said the footprint of the new building was about twice the size of the existing station, though the station will be smaller in square feet than the existing station

"I've been looking at these plans, a lot," Schoales said.

The proposed police station for Brattleboro
The proposed police station for Brattleboro
"If you're a mile away, coming form the east, that building, if it is built the way it shows right now, will absolutely dominate that view. I feel like it is more station than we absolutely have to have and it is a huge building to put in that spot in the center of West Brattleboro village. "

Schoales has been attending some of the police-fire facilities committee meetings and said he was wondering when the best time would be to raise his concerns.

"I'm a little concerned David, and only because you were in a lot of the meetings," Selectboard member John Allen said. "I do think you're just a tad late. It should have been brought up a while ago. I think you might have lost that opportunity."

Brattleboro Fire Chief Mike Bucossi said it made sense to have three garage doors to house a police communications vehicle.

Horton explained that while the designs were at about 60 percent complete, and that he was looking for input before the final design were done, any major changes would cause a delay and potentially add money to the budget.

He said it would be much more expensive to add the space later

"It would be difficult to have a major turnaround but we are open to hearing people's comments," Horton said. "It is a little late in the design process to have any major changes."

Selectboard member Kate O'Connor said she was unhappy with the design of the proposed police addition on the municipal center. O'Connor said she supported the project, but added that she was unhappy with how the new addition fitted in with the design of the historic municipal building.

"I have been really trying to like the design of the new municipal center and I can not get over the hurdle and it's been really hard," O'Connor said. "To me, saying you're not going to see it from the front is not OK to me. I can't get over not liking it."

Giolito admitted that there were challenges in building a new, modern structure that was cost effective, energy efficient and appropriate right alongside a historic brick structure.

"We're building this for 50 years plus and we trying to build it using similar materials," Giolito said. "The other big challenge is it is a secure building. I can't pretty it up. It's a big challenge for us how to get a new building of this type next to this building."

After discussing the plans for more than an hour, the Selectboard approved the design and instructed Horton and the facilities committee to move on to the next step.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.