City mulls options for police HQ

VERGENNES — Vergennes aldermen met behind closed doors on Oct. 9 to discuss the final few choices for a police station site, and there also heard from City Manager Mel Hawley that a station that meets all the criteria Police Chief George Merkel gave to aldermen earlier this year would probably cost more than $2 million.
Hawley said on Wednesday that he and Merkel have met with Bread Loaf Corp. executives and estimators. They concluded that a 6,000-square-foot station with a roughly 1,000-square-foot, five-bay garage would fill the bill, and would cost a little less than $1.8 million to build, not including soft costs.
Hawley said Bread Loaf has just concluded work on the expansion and renovation of Colchester’s police station, and also oversaw construction of Middlebury’s police station.
“They feel their estimates are very reliable,” he said.
But that figure does not include design and engineering fees, legal costs, insurance, bonding costs, permits, security and phone systems, contingencies, furniture and other equipment, moving expenses, and a salary for a clerk of the works.
Hawley said on Wednesday those costs are tentatively pegged at $350,000, bringing up the preliminary estimate for the police station project to a little more than $2.1 million.
The estimate also assumes the use of city-owned land off New Haven Road and does not include property purchase costs, Hawley said. He added, however, that site development costs at that site, which is accessed by a right of way and is further from power, would be higher than those of the other parcels under consideration.
They are the Addison County Eagles’ club headquarters on New Haven Road, which would be a renovation project, and two properties on North Main Street: Vergennes Auto Sales and one that now houses a bike shop. Aldermen said both those properties might be tear-downs.
The latter two properties would have roughly the same construction costs, except site development would be cheaper than the city-owned site off New Haven Road, Hawley said, but would add purchase costs.
The Eagles’ club site would add renovation expenses to whatever the acquisition costs would be. Club secretary Tom McGrath said the property is “not on the market” and has not been listed for sale, but that club officials would listen to a city proposal. Any sale would be subject to membership approval, McGrath said.
Hawley acknowledged that total project costs for other properties are not known at this point.
“We have not done any work on analyzing existing buildings,” he said.
Aldermen essentially crossed two North Main Street properties off the list before going behind closed doors at their Oct. 9 meeting. Hawley said the committee studying sites for the full council believes it would be too expensive to buy and renovate the Denecker Chevrolet property, and he said Country Home Products is in the process of buying the Vergennes Building Supply property.
Hawley said of the executive session that no minutes were taken — none are required — and offered no further details as to whether any decisions were made.
With many variables — including what final design and size building aldermen approve, as well as what site they select — Hawley said voters could have a decision to make as soon as Town Meeting Day.
“I’m pretty confident the city council has not yet set a target date for a bond vote,” Hawley said. “I will say it is possible to have a fairly accurate number for a March vote … but it is a city council call.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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