Price for new Bristol firehouse set at $2.8 million

BRISTOL — A new firehouse for the Bristol Fire Department will cost an estimated $2,840,067, according to plans presented Tuesday evening to the Fire Facility Committee.
Brandon general contractor Naylor & Breen Builders prepared the estimate on behalf of Kevin Harper, who owns the property on which town officials hope the firehouse can be built  — a 2.7-acre plot across West Street from the Bristol Recreation Club. 
The new firehouse would replace the current 128-year-old firehouse at 32 North St., which town officials say has structural and other shortcomings.
“I don’t think anyone was shocked,” said Fire Facility Committee Co-chairman Bill Elwell following the meeting.
The new firehouse project’s first estimate includes $445,836 in developer’s costs, which account for all permitting fees, fees for structural engineers and civil engineers; environmental assessment and remediation; liability insurance; and maintenance.
Those “soft” costs also include credits in the form of $20,000 from the town (approved on Town Meeting Day for completing the cost estimates) and $10,000 in rebates from Efficiency Vermont.
The estimate for the cost of construction is $2,270,570 and includes costs to construct a 3.5-bay garage with space for antique firefighting equipment. The roughly 11,000-square-foot building would also include a kitchen, training and community room and a space for storage and exercise equipment.
Some of the largest items included in the construction cost include:
• $184,769 in general site preparation and maintenance.
• $234,140 for landscaping, excavation, parking and walkways, water and sewer service.
• $205,314 in electrical work.
• $56,020 for an elevator that accommodates people with disabilities.
The estimate also includes a 5-percent contingency of $123,661 for unforeseen costs. The estimated cost per square foot is $206.13.
Speaking before the committee, Harper expressed confidence in the estimate.
“I think the numbers are safe and they are numbers that this early in the stage we’re ready to commit to,” he said.
The Bristol selectboard hired its own estimator to double-check the estimate prepared by Naylor & Breen. While Elwell said he expected a letter commenting on the estimate, he said the town’s estimator was “very close.”
“It certainly gives us a higher level of confidence that nothing’s been missed in putting the price together and we’re not paying more for something than we would have to,” Elwell said.
The committee also discussed costs associated with adding a full, commercial-quality kitchen and the possibility of adding a fourth bay to the apparatus area. The evening meeting also included discussion around the necessity of a so-called “community room.” Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose said the room would be necessary since it would be heavily used for training and as a dining room for the department’s 35 firefighters.
“Having a training room is part of a fire station and it’s something I feel as a fire chief is a must-have,” he said.
Currently, the Bristol firefighters train three times per month, meeting at other locations such as the Bristol American Legion.
LaRose also said the new facility would help the department adapt to the changing needs of a community.
“One of the challenges of this committee is we were charged with designing a building for the next hundred years and we really have to look at the future,” he said. “Bristol is fortunate to have 35 dedicated volunteers but what will that look like 20, 30 or 40 years from now? It’s hard to plan for the future when you don’t know how the community is going to develop and grow.” 
Not included in the estimate was the cost of the land on which the firehouse would be built. Committee Co-chair Elwell said the selectboard has discussed several options with Harper that could help lower the overall price of the new firehouse and benefit both parties. Details on the arrangement are still being discussed.
The presentation to the committee also included a projected timetable with a possible bond vote going before the town in early summer and seven months of construction officially beginning in November.
By the end of the meeting, committee members expressed relief that the project finally had a starting point. A second meeting for public input on the estimated cost will be held next Tuesday at the Bristol Town Office in Holley Hall at 7 p.m.
Harper also expressed satisfaction that the designing architects with Cushman Design Group in Stowe had achieved a similar cost-per-square-foot for the Bristol firehouse as similar projects in small communities around the state. 
“We’re in a different league than Williston or Colchester,” said Terry White, a senior project manager for Naylor & Breen, and Bristol Fire Chief Brett LaRose finished the thought:
“We’re a different type of community,” he said. 

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