As a member of the Planning Board, and subsequently the Board of Selectman, I served on the Bromfield School building committee from start to end. I was also an early member of the building committee as well as personal financial supporter of the Harvard Public Library project. I support the need to renovate and upgrade Town Hall for access and modern technology. Yet I voted not to fund the town hall project.
Almost every no vote for this project can be directly traced to the feeling that it is being run by an inflexible building committee that is poorly supervised by the Board of Selectmen and is locked into its own agenda. The failure of Town Meeting to support additional funding for the project provides an opportunity to get it back on track.
First, it’s time for selectmen to replace the building committee, take control of the project and develop a program that can be accomplished within the current project construction budget. New funds should only be allocated towards this end.
Second, the project needs to be focused on creating a modern town hall internal infrastructure with room for expansion while limiting its focus on historic preservation to the building’s exterior. Gone should be any consideration of recreating its 19th century performance capability. Every preceding project has created some form of meeting space. Selectmen should be focusing on more effective uses of those spaces.
Third, the specifications need to be revisited. Many “desirements” became requirements in the hands of this building committee under the guise of “providing a building for the next 50 years.” An HVAC system that consumes an excessive fraction of the project costs would be a first target.
It would be a mistake for selectmen to assume that the only error in the process so far was the timing of the cost estimation, or to point to preceding votes supporting the current program. Those votes occurred prior to the significant descoping that subsequently occurred as well as the 25 percent cost increase. A successful outcome requires a new approach.