On Wednesday, June 5, the Moretown Town Office Committee hosted a public forum to gather input before applying for a Vermont Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that could cover a substantial part of construction costs for new town offices.
Waterbury and Waitsfield recently received the same grant to move their town offices out of the floodplain. Both towns had their town offices damaged during Tropical Storm Irene. Moretown’s town offices were destroyed due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and the CDBG provides funding for towns to rebuild out of the floodplain. “It fits exactly for this particular project,” committee chair Clark Amadon said.
With the grant application due June 14, the committee expects to know whether or not the town will receive funding sometime in July or August. “If the grant isn’t approved, we feel like we are approaching a reasonable solution for the town that we would still bring to a bond vote [this fall],” Amadon said, although the grant “would certainly make it more palatable.”
As of last week, the committee expected to apply for an $800,000 grant to offset the cost of the new town offices, which come in at an estimated $865,286 (including construction costs, design fees, legal fees, etc.). Henry Erickson of Erickson Consulting drew up this estimate for rebuilding on a site adjacent to the Moretown Elementary School playground, which the committee selected for its final recommendation to the Moretown Select Board.
At the forum, the committee outlined its all-inclusive site search as well as the pros and cons of the other two final sites it considered (the site of the old town offices and a site adjacent to the town tennis courts) to explain why it ultimately selected the playground site as the best option.
According to town zoning laws, the old town office was listed as a nonconforming structure, meaning that if it were rebuilt its size could not increase by more than 25 percent. The structure would also have to be raised 7.5 feet to escape the floodplain, whereas a structure on the playground site would—with some raise—sit one foot above the 500-year floodplain and three feet above the Irene floodplain.
Due to these tight restrictions, the committee did not draw up a cost estimate for rebuilding on the old town office site, but it did draw up a cost estimate for rebuilding on the tennis court site. At $969,706, rebuilding on the tennis courts would cost over $100,000 more than the playground site because the town would need to build a longer road to the site as well as parking space, whereas the playground site could utilize existing municipal parking space.
Both sites were surveyed by Maclay Architects, who Moretown hired for the first and second phase (subject to voter approval) design services for the new town offices. At the forum, Maclay senior associate Bill Gallup presented the design for the building, which comes in at just under 2,000 square feet—roughly double the size of the old 900-square-foot building—and includes a 200-square-foot vault.
According to Gallup, the new town offices will allow for “vast improvements in record keeping and storage” and will include an overflow space outside of the meeting room to accommodate more attendees. Because the building will be slightly raised, its front will look “porch-like,” Gallup said, with a covered ramp for handicapped accessibility.
The town office committee selected Maclay for the project in part based on its commitment to energy efficiency, and as promised “we want to get the energy costs down,” Gallup said. The energy cost of the new building could be so low, he said, that it could get all of its energy from renewable sources such as photovoltaic cells.
When asked about the cost estimates for the project and whether it could be scaled down if needed, Erickson replied that it could. “And keep in mind, this is a bond vote budget,” he said, “so at this point in time you don’t want it to be low—too low.” To avoid the actual costs coming in above the estimate, Erickson explained, he made all of his estimates on the conservative side and the actual bids could be much lower.