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First ‘downtown’ center in Richmond is on track for spring 2023 completion

RICHMOND — Construction on the $6.8 million town center project is scheduled to begin by the end of March, with a completion date of spring 2023.

That’s the timetable for the Town Hall/Library/Community Center complex on town-owned land adjacent to Richmond Consolidated School. The project update was presented Tuesday night by the Municipal Building Committee at Town Hall.

“It’s a beautiful site; we’re right where we want to be,” said committee Chairwoman Pat Callahan. “You’re creating a downtown, with the school,” added project manager Daniel Pallotta.

“Right now, we’re at the beginning of a difficult phase, because we now have to afford it,” Callahan told The Eagle in an interview. “It’s tough out there right now. … I’m hopeful and excited; this building is going to be fantastic for the town.”

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The site of the proposed Richmond town center project, just below Richmond Consolidated School, center. 

A 30-year bond to finance the project will follow acceptance of the lowest construction bid in about two months, based on final, firm cost details. A short-term $500,000 loan for engineering and architectural design work will be paid back from the proceeds of the bond, Callahan said.

She continues to call it “the municipal building; it doesn’t have a good name yet, Some people call it the community center, but I shy away from that because I don’t want to imply that it’s something that it’s not. It’s not Berkshire South.”

Berkshire South is the Great Barrington-based regional community center that includes a swimming pool, fitness classes, personal training and child care.

The story so far

At last May’s annual meeting, 25 percent of the town’s registered voters approved, 270-34, long-term financing up to $6.8 million for site work, designing, engineering, developing, constructing, equipping and furnishing the building.

It’s the town’s most significant capital investment since the $6.2 million renovation and expansion of the Consolidated School 21 years ago. The state covered nearly two-thirds of the cost.

Why it matters

A $1.9 million project to replace the badly deteriorated, 100-year-old Town Hall and the cramped, rented library space was floated to residents in 2002 and revised in 2005, but failed each time by a handful of votes.

This year, with low interest-rate financing of 2.5 percent available, the proposal won widespread support from Town Administrator Danielle Fillio, Select Board members Alan Hanson, Roger Manzolini and Neal Pilson, Finance Committee Chairman Robert Gniadek and his committee members, as well as many residents.

It helped that the financing for the year 2000 school expansion will be paid off this spring.

The bottom line

Annual debt service for the new project, paying down the principal and interest, would cost the town $308,000, without the yearly payment of $150,000 for the school.

For homeowners, the estimated impact on property taxes would be $37 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. The owner of a median-valued $352,000 home would pay an additional $130 per year. The owner of an average-priced $406,000 home would see a $150 real estate tax increase annually.

As for the future of the current, dilapidated Town Hall, Manzolini has said it would be put up for sale “as is.” If no buyers respond, it would be demolished to “take it off the town’s books. We have no plans to keep the building.” It would have required at least $3 million just to bring the Town Hall up to code, he noted.

Following the money

Preliminary cost estimates are slightly higher than expected, Pallotta, the project manager, acknowledged. The increases involve site challenges, he said. After three failed percolations, the septic system had to be relocated farther away from the building to avoid wetlands, and a separate fire-protection system is needed, rather than sharing the school’s, as originally anticipated. The cost estimates for the building itself are on target, Pallotta emphasized.

But, he made it clear that “the ultimate estimate is the bid” from general contractors responding to project advertisements to be distributed early next month. Pallotta of P-Three, in Norwell and architect Curtis Edgin of Caolo & Bieniek Associates in Chicopee, voiced confidence that “we’ll be able to get across the finish line.”

The lowest responsible bid from a qualified general contractor must be accepted, and is likely to be awarded and announced in early February, Pallotta said.

About $235,000 raised by the Friends of the Richmond Library could be used as a buffer, if needed, Callahan noted.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at cfanto@yahoo.com, on Twitter

@BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.

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