Bristol to vote on Holley Hall repairs
BRISTOL — Bristol voters this week will consider the second of two large bond votes in recent months when they take to the polls Tuesday to weigh a $750,000 bond to fund Holley Hall repairs and renovations.The vote comes after voters on Aug. 25 agreed 142 to 87 to move forward with a $1.5 million stormwater system upgrade. The Holley Hall improvements would focus on making the building more handicap accessible, fixing structural and wiring problems, adding insulation and reorganizing the basement town offices. Town Administrator Bill Bryant said that he knows the bond vote comes with a hefty price tag on the heels of the August stormwater decision, but he’s optimistic that moving forward now could save the town money in the long run. That’s because construction bids are coming in significantly under estimate for many projects right now. The stormwater project is a case in point: The lowest of 11 bids to come in for the project was almost $400,000 under estimate, at around $1.1 million.The stormwater upgrades call for replacing the town’s original stormwater system under North Street with a new pipe and new catch basins.“The sharp pencils are indicative of the current economic situation, and that is a major reason why we have moved the Holley Hall project forward,” Bryant said. “Getting this project out to bid in midwinter could result in similar savings for that project.”The stormwater project, in the end, will likely cost Bristol residents less than the Holley Hall improvements; the town expects that roughly 50 percent of the total cost will be funded by federal stimulus money. In light of the lower-than-expected bids for the North Street project, the impact on residents’ pocketbooks could be roughly a penny on the tax rate. Bryant said that for a resident with a $200,000 house the cost would amount to roughly $20 a year. The selectboard is anticipated to award a contract for the stormwater project on Dec. 14. Tuesday’s bond, if passed, would allow the town to borrow up to $750,000 to repair Holley Hall. Town officials are currently working in rented space on South Street because radon problems preclude working from the Holley Hall offices.Selectboard Chair Carol Wells said the board is continuing to seek out grants and other sources of funding to hopefully “whittle down” the bond amount. Because the town won’t have to borrow the funds until late spring or early summer, officials have several months to bring down the total price tag.The cost of the Holley Hall project wouldn’t show up on voters’ tax bills until 2011. For a resident with a $200,000 house, a $750,000 bond would drum up a $44 increase in taxes for the first year.“I think we’ve made this most affordable project we can,” Bryant said. “I’m just not sure where else there is to squeeze.”Polls in Bristol will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the upstairs room at Holley Hall.