RICHMOND — As inflation hits construction budgets countywide, special town meeting voters have approved funding to meet a $1.6 million shortfall for the long-awaited new town hall, library and community center.
An overwhelming show of support was reflected in the 186-13 vote Wednesday, far above the two-thirds supermajority needed for the long-term financing plan, which had been recommended for approval by the Finance Committee.
It’s now an $8 million project, up about 25 percent from last year’s estimate. It’s the largest in the rural town since the $6.2 million renovation and expansion of the Richmond Consolidated School completed 22 years ago, which is now paid off.
Voters had approved the downtown center at last May’s annual town meeting, 270-34. The site is off State Road (Route 41), just north of the school and less than a mile south of the current town hall.
With no questions from the large crowd attending the meeting, hearty applause greeted a ballot vote of 93 percent in favor, ahead of next week’s deadline to accept the construction firm’s low bid to get the project rolling.
Groundbreaking for what will amount to a mini-downtown center, the town’s first, is expected in about six weeks, project overseer Pat Callahan told voters Wednesday night. Construction on land adjacent to the school will be by the low bidder, general contractor David J. Tierney, Jr., of Pittsfield.
In a presentation ahead of the vote, Callahan — chair of the Phase 2 Municipal Building Committee — noted that designs and site plans have been completed, already paid for through short-term financing, and all town boards have approved the project details.
She noted the continuing deterioration of the current town hall, which would have required a $3.5 to $4 million renovation.
“We have run into some challenges over the past year,” Callahan said, including several unexpected site complications, such as needing a separate fire protection system rather than sharing one with the adjacent school, and a more distant septic setup than anticipated.
But inflation — affecting lumber, concrete, copper, other building materials, labor and fuel oil — was the major obstacle, she pointed out. Interest rates are also on the upswing, though still relatively low. The first round of bidding this past winter had yielded a $7.2 million low bid, Callahan said.
Here’s where the money will come from:
A $7.8 million 30-year bond with a projected 3.7 percent interest rate.
About $300,000 in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
$200,000 in donations from supporters of the Richmond Library.
About $110,000 in free cash that can be deployed to cover costs above the $500,000 in design work already paid for during the past year.
In future years, the tax impact will be about $60 a year for the median home value of $390,000.
For fiscal year 2023, beginning July 1, the tax rate is expected to rise by less than one cent, remaining at $12.74 per $1,000 of assessed value, said Finance Committee Chairman Robert Gniadek.
The new building, expected to have a life span of 50 to 100 years, would leave the town’s current financial reserves in place, Callahan said. Completion is projected by the end of 2023, unless there are supply-chain delays.