The $2.9 million question in Richmond: Revamp Town Hall?

The Richmond Select Board has been given a proposal to renovate Town Hall, built in 1923, which would cost almost $2.9 million to bring it up to code and fix structural problems.
The Richmond Select Board has been given a proposal to renovate Town Hall, built in 1923, which would cost almost $2.9 million to bring it up to code and fix structural problems.

RICHMOND — The estimated price tag? Nearly $2.9 million. The proposed project: a top-to-bottom renovation of Town Hall to bring it up to code and remedy structural problems.

A presentation to the Select Board by EDM Architecture, Engineering and Management of Pittsfield included site plan drawings and extensive detail on how the nearly century-old building's flaws could be corrected, although at a steep cost.

The firm's assignment, working with Town Administrator Danielle Fillio, was to explore "what it would take to bring it up to standards we think it would need in order to get us through a 20-year period," Select Board Chairman Roger Manzolini said at Wednesday night's meeting.

He also pointed out that the town's Municipal Building Committee is studying a potential library/community center, possibly combined with a new Town Hall, on town-owned land adjacent to the Richmond Consolidated School.

Cost estimates for those alternatives are not yet known, Manzolini said.

"We wanted to come up with a realistic cost of redoing this facility to make it be what it should be going forward, so we have something to compare with other alternatives," he said.

Citing the total estimate for the renovation proposal, Manzolini suggested that "it seems reasonable we might consider what a Town Hall/library concept would be, as opposed to just a library concept."

Depending on cost differences, he said, "one could logically argue it would be smarter just to have a Town Hall/library all on one piece of property, and to do something else with this building, like sell it. That's a decision we'll have to struggle with, and I don't know how much of a struggle it's going to be, if in fact it's $2.8 million to bring this up to code, versus other alternatives."

"We're accepting the report," Selectman Neal Pilson said, "but we're not at this point taking any vote or steps to either adopt or decline to go forward with this property. We now have a base cost analysis that will be helpful for the board, the Building Committee and, ultimately, the town to decide on our future course. This is one step in the process."

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The library/community center and potential Town Hall is in the early stages of the design phase, Fillio told The Eagle. The Municipal Building Committee has hired the architectural design firm Caolo & Bieniek Associates of Chicopee — it renovated the former Stockbridge Plain School into the Town Offices — to begin the design process.

Detailing EDM's study of the current Town Hall, architect Ryan Schicker noted that a septic system might be needed to replace the two tight tanks currently handling waste disposal.

Accessibility is among the site's current issues, he said, suggesting that regrading the front entrance and providing a van-accessible space would create a direct entry to what he termed "a very challenging building."

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The existing exterior ramp would be rebuilt, and a three-stop elevator also is part of the proposed renovation.

The lower level, with offices for town employees, including police, planning and zoning, would be refinished and revamped into an open-space design with four workstations. Walls are to be removed, and upgrades for electrical and mechanical systems are required.

The plan for the main floor, with a meeting room accommodating 52 people, includes offices for the town administrator, town clerk and treasurer.

The existing stage at the back of the room would be removed, but the historical collage on the back wall is to be remounted "for purposes of nostalgia," Schicker said.

The Town Hall, built in 1923, has been used not only for meetings and elections, but also for school plays, dance recitals and public suppers. The building, formerly equipped with a full kitchen in the basement, also hosted public functions, such as wedding receptions, anniversary parties and baby showers.

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The cost breakdown presented by Tim Eagles, EDM principal and director of architecture, includes $1,070,000 for the renovation, $320,000 for the elevator, $252,000 for site work including the septic system, repaving and regrading, and $150,000 for hazardous materials removal, including limited amounts of asbestos.

Additional costs — such as price increases by the time the project could begin, general project requirements, design fees, temporary facilities for staff while construction is underway, furniture, bonds and insurance — bring the grand total to $2,876,615.

"It's a pretty big nut for what it is," Eagles said. "But in the end, you essentially have a totally rebuilt Town Hall and site, addressing water issues in the basement, existing structural issues, failing plaster and lack of insulation."

New windows, siding and exterior insulation, as well as waterproofing exterior walls, also are part of the plan.

"What we're doing here is an entire reconstruction of the entire building, saving what we can," Schicker said. There also are major exterior structural repairs expected, all included in the price estimate.

But the exterior appearance would remain unaltered, except for the addition of the elevator.

If the project, including financing, is approved by the Select Board and town voters — and that's highly uncertain — construction could begin in September and conclude six to eight months later.

Clarence Fanto can be reached at, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.


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