Groundbreaking first step in long-awaited town hall
The official Tuesday groundbreaking for the new town hall was almost anti-climatic, following the unofficial Monday preview in which a new town backhoe was used to begin demolition of the old planning and recreation offices on West Street, according to reports at Monday evening's Town Council meeting.
"The backhoe performed well," and "no tears were shed by anyone," Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the councilors. He noted that the tearless witnesses included Town Planner Lisa Bryer, who had spent years working in the ramshackle old house converted for office use.
Councilman William Kelly, experienced in heavy equipment operation, got a turn at taking a bite out of the old house with the new backhoe.
The structure was located behind the 123-year-old, one-story existing Town Hall on Narragansett Avenue that will be lifted and relocated on the site while a new foundation is built for it. Then the 2,400-square-foot structure repositioned to be incorporated within the plan for the $3 million new office complex. The work to add a new, two story, 10,400-square-foot attachment is due to be completed in 10 months.
Pezzuco Construction of Cranston was awarded the contract for the new town hall complex for $2,960,111. Pezzuco was established in 1987 as a general contractor. Richard Pezzuco is president and Ronald Pezzuco is vice president and treasurer of the corporation. The two Pezzucos are also officers of Pezzuco Brothers Development, started in 1995, for residential work. Pezzuco completed its most recent major project, a $1.4 million Riverside library, under budget despite site problems that surfaced after the work started.
Jamestown negotiated the contract with Pezzuco as low bidder of four contractors who submitted quotes ranging from $3.4 million to $4.3 million in June. All bids exceeded the $3 million maximum authorized that month by voters at the annual financial town meeting. The price was brought down mainly by the town modifying its plan for a less extensive heating and cooling system, as well as by the contractor revising some subcontractor components.
Town officials have reported offers of donations, including for landscaping and other esthetic expenses not covered by the contract. The contractor himself has pledged to create or acquire and install a cupola for the complex as his firm's donation.
The architect estimated last November that his design would cost $200 per square foot or a total of $2 million, but a closer study using revised, prevailing wage rates boosted the cost to more than $260 per square foot, or the $3 million total for the project.
The town is borrowing money for the project through general obligation bonds, which added $68,375 in debt service payment to the current town budget.
Award-winning architect William L. Burgin of Jamestown, with an office in Newport, originally created the basic design for the office complex about five years ago and updated it last year. When Burgin unveiled his latest design, residents cheered, especially for retention of the historical Town Hall within the complex. The existing Town Hall is to be stripped of its front addition, moved several feet south and west, and have its current side entry restored to its front, facing Narragansett Avenue. The two structures will be connected by a glass corridor over a 10-foot-wide outdoor, handicapped accessible pathway between Narragansett Avenue and West Street.
The design went through review by the Planning Commission and, for special-use permit and some variances, by the Zoning Board of Review. Burgin's proposal grew from his sketching several schemes featuring use of the existing structure that so many townspeople said they wanted to save.
The renovated portion of the complex will provide seating for about 100 people for meetings, plus two conference areas to be used for offices. These can be opened to expand meeting room capacity.
The new wing will accommodate 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, file and record storage, and the records vault. The basement is intended to be finished for emergency management needs, storage and Jamestown Historical Society uses.
Burgin has been in practice since 1975. His firm emphasizes awareness of, and sensitivity to, natural and improved landscapes. His works include the Jamestown Police Station that won the Architecture for Justice Award of the American Institute of Architects. His firm has earned numerous awards and citations for design excellence.
Many Burgin design features incorporate specifications adopted by the Town Buildings and Facilities Committee when it was under the chairmanship of Arek Galle. The intent is for the new structure to serve town needs at least a century.
The committee produced a 19- page report with schematics and graphics to detail its considerations to retain the Town Hall location to reflect the committee's concept of "strengthening the village center."
The existing Town Hall location was chosen after a review of seven options. They were the Ceppi property across the street from Town Hall, the Lawn Avenue School, the Town Offices on Southwest Avenue, the town library, the community playground next to the library, and the golf course on Conanicus Avenue.
Administrative and departmental functions for the town are currently divided among various buildings, all at maximum capacity and without a unified computer system.
Town employees moved operations from Narragansett Avenue and West Street in mid-September to temporary quarters at the townowned golf course across from the police headquarters. They were hailed for the speed and efficiency of the move.
The first town hall was located on the North Main Road just south of North Ferry Road. The current Town Hall at 93 Narragansett Avenue is a one-story, 2,380 square foot clapboard structure built in 1883, with a small addition built later.