Sale of Barrington's old firehouse delayed, again

Saturday June 9, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Final izing the sale of the old fire station could take another three months, while the town and the buyer work out the financial details of managing asbestos and other contaminents at the site expected to exceed previous cost estimates.

The Select Board on Monday is expected to vote on a 90-day extension for the sale -- the second extension since the town and 20 Castle Street LLC signed a purchase-and-sales agreement in February.

Town Manager Kevin O’Donnell said both sides are moving along amicably on the deal, but the extension is needed to complete the remaining environmental analysis of the site.

20 Castle Street, a collection of locals looking to renovate the space for vocational training, career counseling, a museum and café, agreed to buy the property for $50,000. The agreement also outlines who pays what to remove the asbestos. But costs are expected to exceed the $300,000 cap set out in that document.

O’Donnell said an environmental study will be done to determine the exact cost of managing various contaminants in the building. The town is currently working off a 1998 study that found a number of asbestos-containing materials in the building.

O’Donnell said the extension shouldn’t be construed as "cold feet." The contract between both parties allows the town to back out of the deal if cleanup costs exceed the $300,000 cap.

"Both parties do want to go ahead with the sale," said O’Donnell. "It’s always been a difficult building to deal with because of the environmental contaminants associated with it."

A representative from 20 Castle Street was not immediately available for comment.

O’Donnell said the 1998 report showed it could cost more than $600,000 to deal with asbestos in the building, but it’s now looking like it will cost closer to $400,000 because underground tanks present at the time have since been removed.

Previous reports also cited issues with the structural integrity of the building’s bricks, but that doesn’t appear to be a major hurdle at this point.

A long road to a sale

1899: The Castle Street fire station opens.

December 1998: A survey finds asbestos-containing materials in the station.

April 2001: A structural inspection reveals it’s in good condition, though problems are cited with the condition of some of the bricks, the levels of asbestos, the deterioration of the roof, and a number of ways in which the building is not up to code.

May 2007: Town Meeting gives the Select Board the OK to sell the Castle Street fire station once the new facility is opened. Part of the selling point to voters was that the sale, along with the
potential sale of the former Dewey and Searles/Bryant schools, could help offset the cost of building the new station.

August 2008: Construction begins on the new fire station on State Road, paving the way to close the Castle Street fire station.

October 2009: The $9.5 million State Road fire station opens, leaving the Castle Street facility vacant. Some town offices,
however, are eventually relocated to the former station.

March 2010: The town puts out a request for proposals for the former station.

June 2010: After receiving no bids for the facility, the town reviews a number of options, including its demolition.

December 2010: In response to another RFP, three bidders put in offers, which range from a boutique mall to a farmers’ market. Each bid is for $1. The board rejects the bids. Town Manager Kevin O’Donnell tells the board an unnamed group is interested in
purchasing the site for $200,000.

February 2011: In response to a third RFP, two bidders put in offers with caveats that they could walk away from the deal if the building’s condition make repairs unfeasible.

February 2011: The Select Board selects 20 Castle Street LLC as the buyer with a winning bid of $50,000. The company says it wants to refurbish the building to house vocational training, career counseling, a museum and a café.

August 2011: The Select Board sets a Sept. 1 deadline for a
purchase-and-sales agreement, citing displeasure with the lack of progress on the sale.

February 2012: The town and 20 Castle Street agree to a
purchase-and-sales agreement, which includes cost-sharing
outline for any cleanup of hazardous materials.

April 2012: Upon reaching a self-imposed deadline to finalize the deal, the Select Board grants a 30-day extension.

May 2012: Town Meeting approves the creation of a tax incremental financing deal between the town and 20 Castle Street.

Monday: The Select Board is expected to vote on a 90-day
extension for closing the sale.


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