Woodstock’s Town Bord will soon ask voters to approve borrowing $2 million to bring all Comeau Drive offices to the first floor for accessibility as well as renovating the building and the supervisor’s cottage, too. All-in, with furniture, incidentals and professional fees, the project is expected to cost $2.3 million.
The Comeau office renovation was discussed off and on for, well, decades and was high on the late Supervisor Jeremy Wilber’s list. Now, with other major projects, such as renovation of Town Hall, the Community Center and reconstruction of the Highway Garage out of the way, Supervisor Bill McKenna and the Town Board decided the time was right.
The project, since it involves issuing bonds, is subject to permissive referendum. This means a Town Board resolution approving bonding is put on hold for 30 days, giving time for any member of the public to file a petition demanding a public ballot. If no petition is filed, the resolution takes effect. But McKenna has recommended the Town Board exercise its option of forgoing that process and calling for a special election for the bonding.
The town retained Walker Architecture of Woodstock to design a one-story addition overlooking the lawn where Shakespeare is performed in the summer. The Walkers did not want to take away from the visual of the beautiful home that was built in 1911 and purchased by the town in the late 1970s, so the new addition will be barely visible as visitors drive up the road. “We want to treat the building as if it’s a jewel,” Les Walker said during a recent interview in his office. “We didn’t want to ruin the beautiful lawn.”
The design began with hearing suggestions from the people who work in the offices every day and finding out their needs, a familiar process for Walker Architecture. Les and his son Jess listened to input from users and the general public when planning the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center renovation, making many tweaks and changes along the way.
In the new layout at Comeau Drive, the town clerk’s office will become a gateway for people entering the building and they will be directed to other departments, said Jess Walker. Les said he is very excited about equipping everyone with modern furniture since all the desks appear to be from the 1950s and are inadequate for today’s needs.
File cabinets that are spread through the entire building will be consolidated into a large file room.
With offices and file storage out of the second floor and attic, committees and boards will have meeting or conference areas. Les is relieved considerable weight will be removed when the files are moved. The Walkers suspect the additional weight was the reason for the floor jack post installed in the main meeting room many years ago.
The addition will have a lunchroom for employees and large windows will let in plenty of light and offer a view of the lawn.
Back behind the garage, the supervisor’s cottage will get a raised floor, better insulation, new energy-efficient windows, modern wiring and a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system as will the main building.
“I think of it as three projects, said Les Walker, encompassing the main building, addition and supervisor’s cottage.
The addition will be 2500 square feet featuring a sloped roof and will extend the east and south sides of the existing building. It will include some basement space for the safe housing of computer equipment. “We’re restoring the building more than altering it,” Jess said of the main house and cottage.
Supervisor Bill McKenna has touted the Comeau offices as the last major town buildings to be in need of renovation and Les Walker noted it may be his last big project.
Having practiced in Woodstock for 50 years, Les has turned the day-to-day operations to his son Jess, who has been working in the office for seven years.
Jess has more than 20 years experience in the field and prior to working at his father’s practice, Jess worked alongside architect Aldo Rossi in his New York City office. Les and Jess both hold Masters degrees in Architecture from Yale.
Recent local projects that the firm has worked on include the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, Sylvia, Miller/Howard Investments, and the Woodstock Pub.
Renovation should address energy usage
At its regular meeting January 14, former councilman Ken Panza, who serves as liaison to the Ulster County Climate Smart Committee, gave the town board his annual report on electricity usage at the various municipal buildings. He noted a trend of increased electricity consumption at the town offices and a dramatic jump at the supervisor’s cottage.
In 2017, usage at the main offices was 26,836 kilowatt-hours, then 31,208 in 2018 and 30,165 in 2019.
At the supervisor’s cottage, things were dramatically different. Usage for 2018 and 2019 was around 20,000 kilowatt-hours each year compared to the average usage of 8,000 kilowatt-hours for a single-family home. “An energy audit might be appropriate,” Panza noted.
McKenna explained the cottage’s HVAC system is inadequate and inconsistent and attributed it to the people likely using space heaters. The improved insulation and new windows in both the main building and supervisor’s cottage should reduce energy consumption.
Geothermal systems will replace the existing equipment and will consume considerably more electricity but will not consume the propane and oil required by the current systems, McKenna said.
The supervisor hopes for a January 21 Town Board vote to set a date for public bond vote sometime in February. A scale model of the project will be on display in the main meeting room at 45 Comeau Drive, where the public will cast ballots.
The bonding specifics are awaiting approval from attorneys, he said.