Middlebury town office design contract awarded
MIDDLEEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday picked Bread Loaf Corp. to provide preliminary design-build services for a new municipal building that would be built on Main Street and a new recreation center that would be erected off Mary Hogan Drive if voters decide to move forward with a proposal floated earlier this summer.
Bread Loaf was one of four design-build teams that had vied for the up-to-$15,840 contract, which calls for the preparation of plans, schedules and cost estimates to support a municipal bond vote — which could be held this fall. If that vote is held and is successful, the town will negotiate with Bread Loaf to provide all remaining services necessary to complete design and construction of the facilities.
The other three design-build teams who sought the contract were DEW Construction Corp. and Freeman French Freeman Inc.; Engleberth Construction and Wiemann Lamphere Architects; and ReArch Co. and Vermont Integrated Architecture.
Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said a five-person committee interviewed all four design-build teams and recommended Bread Loaf for a variety of reasons, including its “understanding of the importance of the project,” and its proven track record.
“It is clearly an historic opportunity,” said Chris Huston, a Bread Loaf architect who took a lead role in design of the recently completed Middlebury fire station project. “It is an honor for us, one that we take very seriously.”
Bread Loaf will take on a project that has already elicited a lot of public comment.
The proposal calls for building a new 8,000-9,000-square-foot municipal building at 77 Main St., where Middlebury College’s Osborne House is currently located. It also calls for a new 14,500-square-foot recreation center to be constructed near the town tennis courts, swimming pool and the Memorial Sports Center.
The new buildings would replace the aging municipal building and gym located at the intersection of College and South Main streets. As part of a proposed deal with Middlebury College, those structures would be removed and the land preserved as a new park.
The town would move the Osborne House to a town-owned parcel at the intersection of Cross and Water streets. The college would in turn contribute $4.5 million toward construction of the two new buildings and another $1 million for demolition of the current town offices/gym and relocation of the Osborne House.
The selectboard has established a budget of $6.5 million for the two new buildings, meaning taxpayers would have to assume $2 million of the debt.
It’s a plan that has drawn praise from some residents who want to see the town offices remain downtown and who like the idea of receiving college assistance to minimize the impact on property taxes. But the plan has also drawn concerns from residents who believe it was too hastily put together; that it brings the college’s footprint further into the downtown; that it creates potential parking problems; and that it doesn’t adequately consider potential future expansion of library programs.
Mary Hogan Elementary School directors on Monday discussed the proposal for the first time, focusing particularly on the new recreation center that would be built on school-owned property.
ID-4 school board Chairwoman Ruth Hardy and her colleagues heard a presentation from the selectboard and then provided feedback, which included concerns about:
• Parking. Hardy believes a well-used recreation center could exacerbate an already challenging parking and traffic circulation situation in the Mary Hogan school lot.
• The project timeline. Board members were concerned the proposal has gained a lot of momentum in a relatively short period of time.
“The process has been less than ideal, so far,” Hardy said.
• Potential impacts on a planned playground makeover at the school. The ID-4 board has solicited designs for new playground equipment to replace an aging Kidspace. School officials want to make sure a new recreation center dovetails with the new playground, and they’ve suggested that Bread Loaf and town create a “master plan” showing current and potential future construction near the Mary Hogan campus and recreation fields.
• The extent to which the new center could create runoff in what is a state-regulated wetlands.
“If there are issues with wetlands, we want to make sure (the school district) is held harmless if anything goes wrong,” Hardy said.
• The potential for Mary Hogan school children to use the recreation center during the academic year.
Hardy said her board is looking forward to working with the selectboard to make sure plans meet school and municipal needs.
“There is some excitement about collaborating on joint programming,” she said.
Meanwhile, Ilsley Library Director Kevin Unrath and board Chairman David Andrews met with the selectboard on Tuesday to give their input. Library officials have stressed concerns about the availability of parking — which can be at a premium at certain times of the day — and ensuring that a new town office building would not pre-empt future efforts to grow in order to keep pace with what has been an increased demand for services.
Selectboard members have said the Osborne House parcel, combined with adjacent town-owned land, should provide adequate parking. But they also want to discourage long-term parking in the Ilsley Library lot and will encourage Addison County Transit Resources to provide a downtown bus for people who might have a tough time walking from more remote lots.
Town officials have been discussing a November vote on the town offices/recreation center project, but said they are willing to wait longer if public input and Bread Loaf officials recommend it. The selectboard has promised to hold public forums on the plan during the coming weeks, and an ad hoc steering committee will also hold open meetings on the project as it takes shape.
The selectboard voted 5-2 on Tuesday to award Bread Loaf the contract. Selectman Craig Bingham said he did not want to award a contract for a project that has yet to be endorsed (in concept) by the voters.
Selectman Travis Forbes also voted “no” after saying he was disappointed with the number of local subcontractors awarded work on the fire stations project managed by Bread Loaf. Huston said that work was made available to all qualified local subcontractors, and said the company would do the same with the municipal building/recreation center project.
“It will be a very interesting challenge,” Huston said of the work that lies ahead. “These projects touch so many organizations and groups … One can understand the feedback that has been received to this point.”
“This is a very interesting moment and exciting time,” Selectman Nick Artim added.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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