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Moretown sets vote amount for new town offices

On November 5, Moretown voters will be asked to approve spending up to $40,000 for constructing new town offices, for which the actual out-of-pocket cost could be much, much lower, the Moretown Select Board learned this week.

Moretown Town Office Committee chair Clark Amadon came before the board at their meeting on Monday, September 16, with a proposal for paying for the project, which will cost an estimated $865,286 in total. Amadon identified grants, insurance money and alternate sources of funding, subtracting them from that estimated total in a long-form math problem.

Last month, Moretown received a $700,000 Vermont Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for constructing new town offices, since the old offices were destroyed due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. From the flooding, Moretown also received $100,000 in insurance money, bringing the town's out-of-pocket project balance down to $65,286.

On Monday, Amadon explained that insurance will also pay for 84 square feet of vault space in the new town offices ($17,253), moving telephone and computer systems ($5,500) and 7 percent of the design/consulting costs ($5,012). Eliminating these costs, which were previously built into the $865,286 estimate, brings the town's out-of-pocket project balance down to $37,521.

If Moretown can finance the cost of constructing new town offices over five years or less, Amadon proposed, the project will not require a bond vote, saving the town $7,060 and bringing the town's out-of-pocket project balance down to $30,461.

Since the new town offices will be constructed on the current site of the Moretown Elementary School playground, however, included in that $30,461 is $25,000 for moving the playground to the other side of the building.

On Monday, Amadon explained that the town could take that $25,000 from its Deeryard Fund, which is restricted to "use for children," thus bringing the town's out-of-project balance down to $5,461.

Currently, the Deeryard Fund contains $64,000. "We've got that money, it's been sitting there for years and it's designated for children's activities," select board chair Tom Martin said, in support of taking $25,000 from the Deeryard Fund for moving the school playground. "What could be a better use for it?"

"But we're not improving the playground, we're just moving the playground?" select board member Rae Washburn III questioned, saying that the town can't justify using the Deeryard Fund to put the playground back how it was after they demolish it.

To this, Amadon clarified that for insurance reasons the town will not be just moving the old playground but will be building a new one—with improvements—and the board agreed that the new playground could then be considered separate of the new town offices project and that the cost could come out of the Deeryard Fund.

This leaves the town's out-of-pocket project balance at $5,461, but asking the town to approve $75,000 in a vote would "buy the town a little insurance, in terms of what will happen [during construction]," Amadon proposed. In other words, "if we asked for $75,000, it would give us approximately $70,000 for overrun costs," he said.

"I don't see why there should be a need for any extra money," select board member Reed Korrow said, to which Amadon replied that he could not name anything specific in terms of issues with the design that could incur unforeseen costs, although he would still recommend budgeting for some.

"It would certainly be easier to get the town to support $5,400," Martin said, but in the end the board agreed on a $40,000 vote, which allows for possible overrun costs of a little less than 5 percent of the total project cost.

Moretown is now moving towards a November 5 bond vote, with an informational public meeting to be scheduled two weeks beforehand. In the meantime, Amadon plans on posting more information about the project on Front Porch Forum and the town is currently working on writing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for an environmental review of the site. Already, "we have several potential bidders," Amadon said.

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