2005-12-22 / News

Council approves town hall design

By Dotti Farrington

Town Councilors Monday approved by consensus the proposed design of the new town hall. Architect William Burgin said the approval means that final plans can be prepared with the goal of having construction started in July and completed in nine months.

Burgin, a Jamestown resident, reviewed his design proposals this week because three councilors were absent when he unveiled the plans on Nov. 2. He said he will fine tune staff input down to providing space for exact numbers of file cabinets before the drawings go out for construction bid. The plans also need approvals by the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Review.

The councilors and Burgin seemed to be in a celebratory mood about the projected progress on the building. The subject of a 1999 public survey, the town hall project had been delayed a number of years by discussions about location and costs. The long controversy over the location for new highway barn, still not yet resolved, has also helped keep the project on the back burner.

In projecting the schedule for the new town hall, Burgin Monday said he was trusting his sources about data on the progress of construction. “That doesn’t mean that things can go right,” he quipped.

Noting Burgin’s long record of winning awards for his designs, Council President David Long asked if the town hall drawings get honors, will it mean reduced costs for the town. Burgin cautioned that it would mean a higher fee.

Voters will be asked to approve the costs, now estimated at $2.1 million, at the annual financial town meeting that will be held on the first Monday in June.

The only issue this week was Councilor William Kelly’s comment that he thought one section of windows did not seem to blend with the over-all pattern, in relationship not only to the new town office complex, but also in terms of being sandwiched between two churches at its location on Narragansett Avenue.

Councilman Michael Schnack joked he would prefer stained glass windows. Someone suggested the council could schedule an open forum on the window design to get citizen input. Open forums seem to sidetrack some town actions. Kelly backed down, suggesting the window look was not worth taking a chance on delaying the project in any way.

“Go for it,” Council Vice President Julio DiGiando commanded, and his colleagues agreed that Burgin should proceed with all deliberate speed.

Burgin noted that decisions needed to be made on whether slab foundation or full basement would be made for the repositioned, existing Town Hall building as part of the new complex. That decision would be based on bid costs and would not delay the schedule he outlined, he said.

Burgin and Town Planner Lisa Bryer reviewed variations on parking, including through negotiated agreements with St. Matthew’s church and Central Baptist Church. Long asked if fewer or

thinner trees” would ensure adequate parking. Burgin emphasized that enough parking spaces exist or will exist, but trees were in shorter supply and should not be trimmed.

Burgin’s plan enables saving the existing Town Hall by moving the structure and renovating it into a meeting space for up to 100 people, with a new 10,400-squarefoot structure built next to it.

Residents who previewed the plans last month applauded its design and especially its use of the existing Town Hall.

The new two-story building, with a full basement and elevator, will be connected to the old portion by a glass corridor with a 10foot-wide walkway to be built between the two structures between Narragansett Avenue and West Street.

The town planning/recreation office house, in considerable disrepair, at the rear of the property, will be relocated or demolished.

Within the new building, there will be rooms for about 15 department heads and workers, a common mail and office machine room, a technical and computer section, a large public research area, restrooms, a staff break area with a balcony above the records vault area, and appropriate records storage.

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