Pownal board seeks town hall proposals

Cost ceiling set at $750K

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POWNAL — The Select Board has taken another step toward a new town hall, voting unanimously to seek proposals for a new building.

The request for proposals, or RFP, seeks qualified firms for all architectural and engineering services for the design, bidding and construction administration of a new office building.

"It's a standard request for proposals for bids for a public building, with [a] slight caveat," Town Administrator Michael Walker said during the board's meeting Thursday.

The RFP includes three possible construction methods. Respondents could submit proposals for one, two or all three of the potential projects.

Because of a Nov. 6 town vote to support the Pownal Historical Society's proposal for a new town hall, the RFP includes the historical society's plan.

The society's plan is to move a circa-1840s schoolhouse on North Pownal Road to town-owned property on Center Street. Modular construction would be used for the town's core offices, and the attached schoolhouse would be used for Select Board meetings and a Pownal History Center.

Walker wrote the RFP, choosing to include two other possible projects — a modular-only build and a non-modular, or "stick-built" version — in addition to the historical society's proposal.

"The [town] attorney indicated that we could quite literally list as many projects as we wanted to," Walker said. "I chose three, to keep it simple."

The RFP requires the new town hall to be within two lots from the current town office facility on Center Street.

All three projects in the RFP have a required cost ceiling of $750,000; any overages would come from the firm's funds, not the town's.

Any of the projects would require a bond vote, as there is only about $250,000 in a town building fund, Walker said. The Select Board could use any or all of that money.

Audience members and Chairman Nelson Brownell asked questions about the idea of possibly renovating a building in town for a town hall, rather than a building a new town hall.

"This is a request for proposals for these three projects," Walker said. Any proposals for renovation of other buildings for a town hall would be completely separate, he said. The board could consider those as well.

Firms responding to the RFP must submit proposals that include site development, parking, handicap features, exterior design, estimated energy costs and information technology infrastructure, among others.

Proposals are due at the Pownal offices by Feb. 11, 2019, at 5 p.m. Walker said he would be sending out the RFP as written, as the board made no changes.

There are already five preliminary proposals for a new town hall — basically site designs — with assurances that the projects would come in under $750,000, Walker said.

One audience member asked if the board would consider adding a renovation option to the RFP.

That would be a "completely different bag of worms," Walker said.

Incorporating an option for renovation into the RFP would require it to be completely rewritten, he said.

"We're going to be all over the map here," he said.

Another audience member asked if the historical society has submitted a formal proposal for its project.

Walker said they had not, but the group or a contractor operating on their behalf can reply to the RFP like any firm could.

"They would have to do the same thing as everybody else," Walker said of the society. "They're on the same playing field as all the rest of the options that would come in."

It was the first meeting for Suzanne Caraman since being appointed to finish out the remainder of first-time board member Jenny Dewar's term after she resigned last month. Board member Robert Jarvis was absent.

Caraman asked for clarification on who decides what project is ultimately undertaken. The board decides on the project, while the town would vote on bonding, Walker said.

Insurance plan OK'd

The board also unanimously approved a new healthcare plan for the town, through MVP Healthcare.

The new plan is "virtually identical" to the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan currently offered, but costs less, Walker said. Both plans have $350 deductibles and a $1,350 out-of-pocket maximums.

Premiums are approximately 8 percent less than the previous plan. Like the current health coverage, all full-time and part-time town employees would be eligible for the new insurance.

Coverage takes effect immediately. The town pays 66 percent of the premium; employees pay 33 percent.

Walker said he researched the change extensively. "It always makes me nervous when I research something like this," he said. "It means a lot to me to make sure [employees] get proper care."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@berkshireeagle.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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