2006-05-25 / Front Page

Voters will be asked to approve $3 million bond issue for new Town Hall

By Dotti Farrington

Jamestowner William Burgin, whose William L. Burgin Architects, Inc. is based in Newport, reviewed his plans for a new town hall, with little reference to specific costs, before an audience of less than 20 residents at Monday's Town Council meeting.

The presentation was scheduled by the council to discuss costs before it asked voters to approve a bond issue for the project at the June 5 annual financial town meeting. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser last month told the council that voters will be asked to approve up to $3 million, or nearly $1 million more than expected for the new building complex, which includes the existing Town Hall. He said then that the increased costs reflect two items: prevailing wages and the cost of a full, finished basement.

Burgin gave two presentations of his plans for the new town hall in November and December and projected costs of $2.1 million, based on a price of $200 per square foot. Those costs reflected in part lower wages on private home construction, according to Keiser. Latest estimates were that the town hall project could cost about $265 per square foot, he said in April.

Potential savings

The plans call for a new, large two-story rectangular building and renovation of the current single story Town Hall. Councilman Michael Schnack asked about costs and benefits of retaining and upgrading the more-than-centuryold Town Hall compared to building anew.

Burgin said he did not want to influence contractors by his speculating about the variables or by expressing a preference. He said it would be up to the council after bids are in to determine which method to employ, and how much consideration should be given for historic value of the original building versus a new structure that could be a replica of the existing structure.

Keiser referred to possible options, including determining if any modular construction would enable savings. Limited details of modular construction were given this week. Modulars are believed to be equal to or superior to onsite construction, had some climate control options that might be less expensive than on-site work,

and could reflect savings of up to $5 an hour over on-site labor, it was suggested.

Resident Ellen Winsor was the only forum speaker who talked about the town hall bids. She urged town officials to compile details about pros and cons of modular construction, indicating the data would be helpful for their review of bids if not for explanation to voters at the financial town meeting.

Bid schedule

Burgin reviewed the bidding schedule, with the bid opening set for June 16. Keiser suggested that the contractors, knowing the June

5 vote on of the bond issue, "could be a double-edged sword." Both Burgin and Keiser said too much public discussion about options might influence bidders and such influence could be either a benefit or a disadvantage to the town.

As of Monday, at least five potential bidders had obtained the bid forms that became available last week. Three more bidders were scheduled to get packets this week. A pre-bid conference that bidding contractors must attend will be held Tuesday, May 30. The bids are due to be received June 16 when they will be opened.

Within the new town hall office structure will be rooms for about 15 department heads and employees, a common mail and office machine room, a tech and computer section, a large public research area, rest rooms, a staff break area, records vault, files and records storage, and a vault for the Jamestown Historical Society.

The new two-story element, with an elevator, will be connected to the old structure by a glass corridor over a 10-foot-wide pathway to be built between the two structures as walkway between Narragansett Avenue and West Street.

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