Brattleboro begins design plans for police-fire projects

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BRATTLEBORO — Three police and fire facility projects that have long been in the works are getting closer and closer to fruition.

West Brattleboro Fire Station plans are "nearly final" but the downtown-based Central Station requires "substantial redesign," said Town Manager Peter Elwell during Tuesday's Select Board meeting.

Plans will be designed by Northeast Collaborative Architects with Ray Giolitto serving as the principal architect. Steve Horton, of Walpole, N.H., was hired as the owner's project manager. He designed a fire station for Keene, N.H.

A Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment on the Reformer building is expected to go smoothly. This testing is typically done after the purchase of a commercial or industrial property.

The town authorized another payment for the newspaper's 62 Black Mountain Road location last week following Representative Town Meeting approval on both the project and the budget containing the project. Police will relocate there and the newspaper will continue its operations as a tenant in a partitioned section of the building.

Officials expect to close on the property before or by Aug. 10. A design will be created for a new building layout with construction to follow.

The Phase 1 testing will be the most time consuming of inspections, Elwell said.

"We are in the process of lining that up and also in communication with the owners about gaining access to the property to begin the inspection work," he said. "It was mostly open land. There was probably some farming activity and some other things might have gone on there historically. But there was not much use of this land until the Reformer building was built there 35 years ago."

Up until the end of inspections, Elwell said the town can withdraw from the process and get its $35,000 deposit back. And it wouldn't require finding "anything major."

An application to the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank was made so money for the project would be issued in the summer. Estimates on the interest rate will continue to be refined as the bond gets closer to being issued, according to Elwell. But the figure won't be known until the bond is issued.

Talks with commercial banks about lending the money for the project have so far been unsuccessful. The thought was that the town might find a more favorable interest rate, Elwell said.

"While some of the commercial banks have been involved in this kind of lending with municipal debt in recent years, what we think we're gleaning from this is that their portfolios have enough of this debt in them that they're looking to issue other kinds of debt right now at this point," he said. "We're not certain of that. It still might materialize."

The Police-Fire Facilities Building Committee was reconvened at Tuesday's meeting. The town issued a press release Wednesday looking for one more member. The vacancy is expected to be filled by April 28. Anyone interested should call Elwell's office at 802-251-8151.

The committee's new charge, read by Select Board Chairman David Gartenstein, is to provide "financial and technical oversight to the police and fire capital improvement project." Also, it will act in an "advisory capacity" to the Select Board and Elwell.

Currently, Gartenstein is writing a document to send to residents and newspapers regarding the projects.

With the police set to move out of the Municipal Center, Elwell was expecting state officials to visit at the end of next week. He said they will tour the building and begin to discuss whether there was any interest in taking over some space.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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