By RUSSELL JONES
The Proctor Selectboard has settled on a design concept, the eleventh draft so far, for renovating the town offices to make them handicap accessible. They met for a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 6, to discuss what the selectboard and the designing firm said was a nearly finished design.
“A lot of people are wondering what is taking so long,” board member Carrie Dougherty said. “The money has been allotted, but nothing is happening.”
Edward Clark, with NBF Architects from Rutland, is leading the design process for the town and said they are very close to finalizing the plans.
“You don’t want to try to discuss every little detail,” he said “You want some flexibility with the design. We tend to start with the big picture and zoom down.”
According to Clark, they are nearly there. The reasons for the many plans have been because of the historic nature of the building and because of the pressure the attached clerk’s office is already under due to lack of space.
BOND OK’D FOR $330K
Voters in Proctor approved a bond measure on June 4 for $330,000 to renovate the historic building, built in 1836.
Because the building is on the state historic buildings registry, much of the original look must remain and all plans have to be approved by the historic preservation division under Section 106 of the law. The designers and the town went through several options just to get tentative approval.
“The right of way precluded putting anything on the back,” said Scott Newman, the town’s Section 106 consultant, who said they finally settled on putting an addition on the west side of the building. “The goal for historic preservation is putting a new addition as far from the street view as possible.”
Newman added that he has met several times with historic preservation consultants and they are “100 percent on board with this plan and see no adverse effects to the building.”
Board chair Bruce Baccei found that news encouraging.
“We’ve been dealing with this for a number of years and we have to see an end to it soon,” he said. “It’s good they’ve tentatively approved this and it’s hopefully moving forward.”
Several of the board members did raise concerns that each plan that is drawn up has added to the cost of the project.
“We just want to see it move forward without spending more than necessary,” Baccei said. “I’d hate to see it mushroom to $400,000. We’d have a mess of egg on our face.”
Historic Preservation did have a few comments on what they would like to see on the new addition, however.
“They suggested several things such as treatments, windows and some masonry cladding,” Newman said. “We probably need one more level of detail (on the plans) to show the masonry, windows and siding, but this concept already has approval.”
SPACE AT A PREMIUM
The other problem they are dealing with is space. The town clerk’s office is cramped as is, and one of the rooms upstairs is dedicated to storing old records.
“There is a safe in there that is not needed as a safe,” town manager Stan Wilbur said, “but it does hold a number of historic documents.”
Town Clerk Celia Lisananti said the reason they are running out of space is because some of the records she keeps must be kept forever and the upstairs storage room is where a lift and stairwell of the new addition will enter the building.
Clark said removing the old, narrow stairs would give the clerk’s office more storage room.
“There’s already not much space downstairs,” Lisananti said. “Adding that closet-sized room, that’s not much more space.”
Clark said there were things they could do to relieve some of the pressure upstairs, such as rearranging the furniture or perhaps moving the town manager office up front and using the current office for storage.
“Where I actually sit is immaterial,” Wilbur said.
The board approved a motion to accept Option 11 as a concept and Clark will get to work on the next level of detail, he said.
They will still need to get the Section 106 approval once plans are final, but Clark did not think the task would be arduous and Newman agreed.
“I don’t see a lot of back and forth from here,” the consultant said. “The town has done its due diligence with these options and historic preservation is ready to sign off in short order.”
After that, Wilbur is looking into whether they will have to bid the job again or if they can use Wright Construction, who won the first bid before they added the lift.
“The next step is the environmental review,” Wilbur said, “which should be fairly simple, I’m told.”
Construction is expected to begin next year, but another project dealing with the wall in front of the town office is already underway. The front wall of the office developed a lean and has been braced with poles to keep it from falling over since last year. Construction to repair the wall began last week and should finish soon.