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Bristol firehouse cost estimate due

BRISTOL — The Bristol Fire Facility Committee is expected at a meeting this Tuesday evening, May 19, to unveil a construction estimate for a new West Street firehouse.
That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be held at the Bristol Federated Church at 37 North St.
The estimate was being prepared by Brandon general contractor Naylor & Breen Builders on behalf of Kevin Harper, owner of the 2.7-acre plot across from the Bristol Recreation Club property on which town officials hope the new firehouse can be built. The bid was due to them this past Friday, town officials said.
The new firehouse would replace the current 128-year-old, 32 North St. firehouse, which town officials say has structural and other shortcomings.
The Bristol selectboard has discussed with Harper several options related to the 2.7-acre parcel and nearby town-owned land, options that could help lower the overall price tag of a new firehouse and potentially benefit both parties in the long run.
Tuesday’s meeting, according to Fire Facility Committee Co-chairman Bill Elwell, will focus on the new building’s cost and should be the first of several public meetings that lead up to a potential summertime bond vote.
“This is the start of those real important meetings, I would say,” Elwell said. “Numbers are what people are waiting for and are really interested in.”
Elwell said what Naylor & Breen was estimating was a two-story firehouse “just a hair over 11,000 square feet,” which is the design that town officials settled upon in recent weeks.
Bristol also hired its own estimator to double-check the numbers that will be shared with the public on Tuesday, assuming the estimate arrived on schedule late last week.
“There will be one number presented, but it will be a number that has been affirmed and confirmed by a private estimator,” Elwell said. “He’ll be giving us a summary of his findings.”
He added that the second set of eyes would ensure “that we weren’t being overcharged,” and “that nothing major is being missed in the estimate.”
The goal, Elwell said, is a building the town can buy from Harper.
“It’s kind of a turnkey operation. It’s a building that’s being purchased from Kevin when it’s completed,” he said.
Tuesday’s meeting will allow for questions from residents. 
“The committee will ask their questions, there will be time for public comment, and we will work through the estimate,” Elwell said.
The committee hopes either next week or the week after to forward its work to the selectboard, which can then begin moving toward a summertime bond vote.
Elwell sees the Tuesday meeting as the start of the run-up to a bond vote, but said it will be up to the selectboard to act once its members are up to speed and happy with the project. He emphasized it will be a public process.
“There will definitely be some other meetings and different events for people to come and just hear more information,” he said.
32 NORTH STREET
Deciding the fate of the existing firehouse will also be a public process, Elwell said. At its May 12 meeting, the Fire Facility Committee voted to forward five options to the selectboard, according to meeting minutes:
1.  Sale with caveats (e.g., exterior must be restored to its original design).
2.  Sell without any caveats (as a building lot to get it back onto the grand list, but would have to limit it to three bedrooms if that is what type of septic can be put in).
3.  Obtain grant monies (from a private source) to keep and refurbish the historical building, but would need to put it on a time frame.
4.  Dismantle the building and sell the wood and timber as reclamation.
5.  Town raze the building and keep the lot for future use.
In discussion, committee members were skeptical the town would have any future need for the building, and were unsure option No. 3 would gain any traction. According to the minutes, the lot’s septic capacity would support a three-bedroom home, but not a four-bedroom home.
Elwell said the committee could make a recommendation to the selectboard at the same time it sits down with the board to discuss the cost estimate for a new firehouse.
“It will probably be done at the same time we present them with the price of the building,” he said.
Residents will make the final decision on their existing firehouse.
“My understanding from the selectmen that were there (at the committee meeting last week) is the selectboard will finalize a couple options out of that, and there will be some kind of poll of the community to get down to one,” Elwell said. “And ultimately there would be some kind of vote of the community of what to do with it.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at andyk@addisonindependent.com.

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