HARVARD — With a $2.3 million construction budget in hand and a clear message from townspeople to get the job done for that amount, selectmen some time ago asked LLB, the Rhode Island architectural firm working on the Town Hall renovation project, to revisit previous plans and, if possible, downsize the design to fit the current bank balance.
Tuesday night, LLB principal R. Drayton Fair paid his second visit to selectmen since they handed him the new, cost-conscious charge, offering two or three different makeover options with interchangeable parts.
Options 1, 1A, 1B and 2 presented mix-and-match choices for the building layout with price tags ranging from $1,105,750 to $1,413,587 for the basics.
“As previously discussed,” those were construction estimates only and did not include other costs, Fair said.
He proceeded to give selectmen a “Chinese menu” of items to choose from, with a short-list of optional add-ons priced separately, such as an emergency generator for $194,169, replacement windows for $135,461 and restoring the historic cupola, which Selectman Stu Sklar said Monty Tech students could do for the $52,614 estimate.
As he sketched upstairs and downstairs layouts in the different configurations, Fair pointed out placement options for specific features and fixtures, each one a question the architects will need answered before finalizing the new design. No matter which option is chosen, however, the building footprint stays the same, with the existing addition still standing, shored up and repaired rather than replaced.
A number of other wish-list items, lined up by priority, would also increase the bill if selectmen decide to include them. Sprinklers, for example, would up the cost by $352,461; upgrading the main electric service would cost $154,196.
But Fair said the electrical system is OK as is, if there’s no air-conditioning on the second floor, which would make it mandatory. But the second floor — mostly open space now and in most future designs — has no A/C, never has. Adding it would cost $260,834.
Consensus was the A/C was a frill the building can do without. In all, extras (besides the windows, generator and cupola) could add another $2 million to the bottom line.
Selectman Ron Ricci suggested that some priority items could be plucked from the list and included as “add-ons” when bids go out.
The patterns Fair laid out on-screen showed a couple of different places to put the lift providing access to the second floor, which toilets would be moved where, depending on first-floor layout, how high walls should be for air circulation, how much move-around space would be required for foot traffic and how to ensure public access to the rear of the first floor, where in one set-up, the town administrator’s office would be located.
Noting that none of the options on the table were ideal, the selectmen agreed the goal was to pick one that works and the town can afford.
To that end, the selectmen scheduled a public-input session for Monday, April 28, at 7 p.m. to present the options under consideration, see which one townspeople like best and go from there.
But Selectman Leo Blair was leery of asking townspeople what to do again. “I strongly disagree,” he said, adding that he didn’t like any of the designs Fair presented.
“I wanted to go with the plan we discussed before,” he said. But in any case, they should pick one and get going rather than add another delay to an already protracted process.
The selectmen got plenty of input from previous public forums, Blair said, but none of the innovative ideas people came up with were doable.
Chairwoman Marie Sobalvarro conceded that those ideas were not feasible, as it turned out, but she was still for asking again based on the notion that it will be “helpful” to hear what people think about the path selectmen should take from here.
Blair didn’t think so.
“We’ve had all these discussions,” he said, but mostly it’s the same folks who show up, focused on features they care about such as the second-floor stage.
“Most people never even come in here,” (Town Hall) he said, positing that the most important factor to many, if not most people in town, is how the building looks outside. Fix that and most folks would be happy with the renovation, he said. “This is a lousy office building,” anyway.
Ricci said Blair raised valid concerns. Although he agreed with Lucy Wallace that townspeople should have a chance to see the plans before the board makes its pick, he said it’s definitely time to make a choice and move forward with the project.
In his view, the public perception is, “These guys can’t make a damn decision,” he said.