Woodstock voters will decide on Comeau renovation bond

Woodstock voters will decide November 2 whether to allow the town to borrow $1 million for a $2.9 million renovation project to its offices and the supervisor’s cottage on Comeau Drive.

The Town Board unanimously passed a resolution July 20 authorizing the Election Day bond vote to cover the difference between the nearly $2 million saved in the town capital reserve and the estimated $2.9 million price tag.

The original estimate for the project was $2.1 million, but some costs have escalated since the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the town is committed to a $3 million cap.

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“If (the bond) passes, construction would be taking place sometime in early spring. So, between now and then, there’s a lot of room. Prices could go up. They can come way down. But this does commit us to a $3 million project,” town supervisor Bill McKenna said.

Should the budget exceed $3 million, the town will work with an estimator to conduct value engineering, where, for example, materials are substituted or plans are scaled back somewhat to lower the cost, as was done with previous projects including renovations of Town Hall and the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center.

The estimated cost to the taxpayer with a median price home of $307,000 is $20.22 per year at the start, an expense that then declines. The average cost for such a home for the 15-year life of the bond is just under $18 per year.

The board will discuss plans to make the public aware of the project and the upcoming vote, including possible meetings at the main firehouse on Route 212 and the other three firehouses in Wittenberg, Lake Hill and Zena with the model on display.

ADA compliance

The renovations, designed by Walker Architecture, would make the offices ADA compliant and accessible by bringing all the public spaces onto the first floor through an addition in the rear of the main building. The second floor would be used for some office and storage space, but the heavy file cabinets would be moved to the first floor, taking a significant load off the structure. Employees have feared the file cabinets will fall through the second floor. More recently, chunks of plaster have fallen from the first-floor ceiling into the Town Clerk’s office and the main meeting room.

The addition would feature windows that are nearly floor to ceiling, to let a lot of light into the office spaces and employees would gain a kitchen and break area. Each department would have its own filing area. Windows in the original building would be replaced as well as the HVAC system. A new geothermal system would remove the need for window air conditioners.

The supervisor’s cottage would get an energy efficiency renovation and the leveling of uneven floors would make it more accessible. “There are some issues with loose plaster and whatnot. We still work in a beautiful setting,” McKenna said. “And this would be easy enough to fix up, but it’s not going to solve the ADA compliance. Bringing everything on one floor is going to achieve that.” 

“And that’s what will save this building. Right now, we’re killing this building,” Town Clerk Jackie Earley said.

“Just to be clear, the building is not in danger of just totally collapsing,” McKenna said.

“Should we take a walk upstairs?” Earley responded.

“What is happening is the timbers, they’re old timbers and they’re being stretched and stretched and stretched and we have to alleviate the weight,” McKenna said.

“Let’s just say it’s squishy upstairs,” Earley said.

“That’s the word for tonight.”