Brattleboro police-fire facility projects get 'aggressive' schedule

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BRATTLEBORO >> The newly reconvened Police-Fire Facilities Building Committee is putting together an ambitious schedule for addressing the upgrades and construction involved with bringing both fire stations up to safety standards and renovating the police department's new facility on Black Mountain Road.

"I would stress that it's preliminary," Town Manager Peter Elwell told the Select Board on Tuesday. "There are a lot of variables that are still not known and not knowable."

The "aggressive" calendar was chosen rather than a "conservative" one with a lot of play, he said, explaining that it did include 30 days for applicable Development Review Board approval and corresponding 30-day appeal periods.

First up will be construction at the West Brattleboro Fire Station. This is set to take place in the middle of the summer and conclude by January. The committee is looking at a site plan on May 11.

The police station, which entails renovation of the Reformer building, will be "a relatively easy project to complete for construction," Elwell said, noting that had been one of the factors behind choosing the property. The age and "open interior" of the building also played a role.

A design of the police station should be ready by the end of May, according to Elwell. Construction is scheduled to begin in November and end by next May.

Environmental review specialists are expected to look at the site this week or next week. The recent transfer of ownership of the Reformer should not cause any delays, Elwell said. Local investors took it over earlier this week.

Whether the newspaper will serve as a tenant came under question. The purchase and sale agreement included a three-year lease. But the new owners expressed interest in moving operations downtown.

"We are meeting with the realtor next week to discuss options," said New England Newspapers Inc. Publisher Ed Woods. "New ownership has not changed our plan to potentially lease back space in the Reformer building once it is sold. The change in ownership may mean we need additional space and that is what we will be discussing with the realtor and the town."

"A substantial redesign" of the downtown-based Central Fire Station will be required, Elwell previously said. Construction is set to take place between this September and July 2017.

At the next meeting on May 17, town finance director John O'Connor will be discussing whether to go for a municipal bond or go through a private bank for the funding approved at annual Representative Town Meeting in March. The first option seems to be the likelier choice to come as the suggestion to the board.

"We have been receiving a favorable response from the bond bank for our readiness to be part of their package this summer," said Elwell.

President of West Brattleboro Fire Association Michael Bosworth sent recommendations on the West Brattleboro Fire Station but noted the association did not want to hold up the construction process.

The Select Board approved the request to get exterior electrical outlets behind the station but rejected an idea for a storage shed to hold event materials and a bulletin board to post information alongside of the station. The town's administration was directed to develop a site plan for the demolition of the existing station.

The unanimous vote was informed by recommendations from the Police-Fire Facilities Building Committee.

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


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