HARVARD -- Seeking to fit the existing Town Hall renovation plan or a revised version of it into the remaining $2.2 million left in the construction budget, selectmen agreed last week to sit down with LLB architects to review the design with that aim in mind.

When the Town Hall Building Committee brought a revised budget to selectmen last year that was $1 million more than the original $3.9 estimate endorsed by Town Meeting, voters were asked to up the appropriation by that amount. They said no, first at a Special Town Meeting and then at the ballot box.

Now, the challenge is to move the project forward with the money available.

Opening the discussion at their recent meeting, held at Volunteers Hall while Town Hall was closed for asbestos removal, Chairwoman Marie Sobalvarro said the task at hand is to "capture our intent ... in delineating what we want LLB to do" before meeting with the architects. The gist of it was they'd like one or two schematics that would keep the cost within the budget or at least in the "ballpark" and with about $25-$35,000 of the remaining budget still earmarked for schematic design, it's doable, she said.

Sobalvarro said her read of the contract indicates that asking LLB to scale back the existing design to fit the budget is not only a reasonable request, it shouldn't cost extra.


The contract calls for scaling back if bids come in higher than expected, "without added compensation," she said.

Selectman Leo Blair suggested they proceed on that premise, reminding LLB of its obligation to fix the current design to fit the budget, but also asking for a second version. "If they're smart," they'll agree, he said.

"We need to scale down the scope of this thing," Blair continued, but asking the architects to recreate the same design for less could be a "pointless task." The big cost drivers are the big changes, he posited, such as a pricey new HVAC system and interior makeover, both of which can be left out in a downsized re-do of the design. "I think they'll do it for nothing or very little," Blair said. "My hunch is they'll want to help."

With the contract due to expire in September, board members agreed it's time to act.

"Do we keep the addition or not?" asked Selectman Lucy Wallace. She noted a choice the board discussed previously between keeping the 1950s addition, fixing it as needed, versus removing the addition and either replacing it with a new one or simply making do without it, squeezing existing office and storage space into the original building footprint.

Consensus at the table was to keep the addition and make necessary repairs.

Resolving this issue would also have an impact on how voters view a pending request for a $4 million renovation of Hildreth House, Blair said.

Town Administrator Tim Bragan suggested having town counsel review the contract with an eye to Sobalvarro's interpretation of the re-do clause,

Selectmen agreed to do so before setting up a meeting with LLB architects, which they said was a given no matter what the attorney's legal view of the contract might be. They also decided that a couple of selectmen, most likely Ricci and Blair, would make the trek to LLB offices versus having the architects travel to Harvard.