Do we need a New Town Hall, Fire Department, Police Department facilities, and Animal Shelter?
Yes. The Town Hall and Animal Shelter were cobbled together from buildings that were “temporary” when constructed by the U.S. Government 70 years ago. With asbestos on the walls and floors, bad ventilation, and many other issues, they violate health, accessibility, and safety codes. The Fire and Police facilities, constructed inexpensively many years ago, are significantly inadequate for current staff, for vehicles, and because health and safety are not up to current State standards. All four buildings are failing to meet town citizens’ needs and those of our town workers. The present situation is not sustainable. If not replaced, these facilities must be very substantially repaired, and made larger. In other words, it is not a question of whether something needs to be done, but what the voters choose to do, try to improve inadequate structures, or build new.
The voters are being asked to approve an initial $1.1 million dollars at the spring 2020 town meeting. What will be accomplished with this money?
The previous effort, which failed, was criticized as being only a conceptual plan with estimated costs. As taxpayers, the voters should know exactly what they are voting for. This time around, we will present town voters exact costs from actual contractor bids based on finished architectural and engineering designs. This $1.1 million must be spent to achieve actual bids per state requirements for planning, review, and approvals, including hiring a qualified architect/engineer and a firm to act as Owner’s Project Manager.
If the town votes to erect these new facilities, where will they be located and how will they be arranged?
The principal Town administration and service functions will be in the center of town, located together. The town owns land on Rt. 118 that encompasses the present Fire/Public Safety building. The highway department across the street will remain as is. The plan is to renovate most of the present Fire/Public Safety building to become Fire Department headquarters and Station One. A new dedicated building will house the Police, built to current standards for security and proper functioning. Another new structure will house the town functions now located in the Peck Street Town Hall. A home for REMA/Ambulance will not require new construction. New buildings may use efficient prefab construction and plans will include exteriors, interiors, roads and parking, utilities, landscaping, and safety and energy infrastructures.
What is the cost to the town if the voters decide not to authorize the necessary funding? That is, what is the cost of “doing nothing”?
It is impossible actually to “do nothing,” because the buildings we now have are failing in so many significant ways. An inexpensive or “free” option for our town simply does not exist. Problems are deep, not just with appearance: they involve compliance with codes, safety, and new state regulations and laws. Our findings show major costs that cannot be avoided, adding up to a projected $9 million. And that number does not include space expansion, a critical need in many areas that must also be addressed. The committee will provide details in a series of information sessions.
Is the animal shelter currently up to State requirements? If not, how can we bring it up to standard?
No. The shelter houses its animals securely, but has serious quality problems. Open roof beams challenge hygiene, and loose cats can hide there. Neither animals nor humans can drink the water. Heating is inefficient. Pending legislation will require new building standards, and our quarantine area will not be compliant. The biggest challenges are much too small facilities for cats, the shelter’s main “clients,” and a cramped, hard-to-clean maintenance area.
How do we know what is needed?
During fall 2018 and spring 2019, the Committee systematically consulted the directors of each town department to learn their units’ needs to serve our citizens, meet codes and other requirements, and allow for modest expansion so the building will have a useful life for at least thirty years. Our consulting architect then drew conceptual floor plans to accommodate these needs.
What will happen to the existing buildings if the town votes to build new ones?
The land will remain town property, including Nike Park and the athletic field. The final plan presented to the voters will include concepts of how the town will use, or dispose of, the town hall building and the animal shelter located off Peck Street. The committee is interested in hearing people’s suggestions in our information sessions.
Can we discuss an expected cost for the new buildings and how it would affect the taxpayer?
Not at this time. The idea is for the initial $1.1 million to be spent in arriving at an exact cost, and it would be irresponsible for the Committee to speculate on the total cost at this time. When the planning process reaches its conclusion and the project solicits actual contractor bids, the total cost will be known. We do know this: that every year of delay means that design and construction costs will go up.
What is the approval process for this project?
Approval occurs in two stages. The initial $1.1 million will be presented in the spring 2020 Town Meeting as a one-time, single-year capital debt exclusion, requiring a two-thirds vote; and if that passes, an election requiring a majority ballot vote will be needed. This will accomplish the first phase. The money will pay for an architectural/engineering firm and a project management firm, both required for projects of this scope. At the conclusion of this design and bidding stage, probably in spring of 2021, in another Town Meeting voters will consider a multi-year debt exclusion expense to pay to construct the facilities. That town meeting will require a two-thirds vote, and the final decision will be a ballot vote requiring a majority to pass.
What happened the last time?
Town meeting approved the conceptual proposal by over two-thirds. Then it went before the voters in 2017 as Ballot Question #1. It failed, but the vote was close: 1317 voted no, while 1197 voted yes. That is, 48% approved funding the project. The vote was essentially tied in Precinct 1, passed by a little in Precinct 2, but was defeated in Precinct 3. We heard a lot of concern about the fact that designs were only conceptual and costs were only estimated.
Who are we?
The Rehoboth Board of Selectmen formed this committee in August, 2018, to serve as an executive
committee that oversees the project as a whole, from planning through to completion. Members are Frank Barresi (chair), Norman Todd (vice-chair), Richard Panofsky (Clerk), Deborah Arruda, David Foss, Bill Maiorano, Scott Meager, Joseph Nunes, and Carolyn Panofsky. They represent many town departments and also include two ad-hoc community members. Local architect Edward Rowse is volunteering design services and the town has hired CGA Project Management of Fall River for technical support.
Rehoboth Municipal Building Study Committee • October 2019