With a green light from the state’s historic preservation office, the Woodstock Town Board voted to place the Comeau town office renovation project out to bid. The project has an estimated cost of $2.9 million, but one lawmaker wants to make sure it remains qualified for historic designation.
Christina Vagvolgyi, historic site restoration coordinator from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation visited the property on July 14. She determined the project should not impact the historic Dutch-revival home’s eligibility for listing in the state or national Registers of Historic Places.
Vagvolgyi did recommend a proposed vestibule connecting the existing building to the addition be all-glass to minimize visual impact, a detail some on the board noted was omitted from the current plans.
“I’m concerned that we need to make sure that we are following the recommendation that they have suggested, that will allow us to get the application’s best view so that we can make this a historic building and get that designation,” Council member Bennet Ratcliff said.
Town supervisor Bill McKenna turned the task back to Ratcliff.
“I’m going to give you the lead on this and you can confer with SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) to make sure this conforms with what they want and if it needs to be all glass, the architect…he’s happy with all glass too,” said McKenna.
“That’s what it says from them. It says it should be all glass to minimize the visual impact,” Council member Maria-Elena Conte said.
“I think I’ve been perfectly clear that my intention is to work hard to get a historic designation for this building and I am completely in favor of making sure the town offices are expanded to meet the needs that the town obviously has,” Ratcliff said, adding that he’d rather work out the details before voting on the matter. But McKenna expressed concern crews can’t break ground on the project before winter if the bid is delayed.
McKenna also requested Town Historian Richard Heppner to apply for the building’s historic designation. And he noted any design changes can be made later in the form of a bid addendum. Ratcliff voted in favor of McKenna’s additions, but voted against putting the project out to bid. But the board vote to send the project to bid was 4-1 in favor.
The renovations, designed by Walker Architecture, will make the offices ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) 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 will be used for some office and storage space and heavy file cabinets will be moved into separate file rooms for each department, making things easier to access and taking the tremendous weight off the second floor.
Employees have complained they fear 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 will feature windows that are nearly floor to ceiling, to let a lot of light into the office spaces and employees will gain a kitchen and break area. Each department will have its own filing area. Windows in the original building will be replaced as well as the HVAC system. A new geothermal system will remove the need for window air conditioners. The supervisor’s cottage will get an energy efficiency renovation and the leveling of uneven floors will make it more accessible.
No approval from CCD
But the project is off to a start without final review by the Commission for Civic Design (CCD) .
“As chair of the CCD, I still get complaints about the design of the project, as if the CCD approved it, but we have no authority to authorize changes,” said Commission chair David Ekroth. He noted the CCD fully supported the need for additional office space and building improvements, but had issue with the design.
The CCD plays an advisory role and since this is a municipal project, their input was considered a courtesy review.
Last November, voters approved a $1 million bond to supplement $1.9 million in capital reserves to fund the project. The town has committed to a $3 million project cap and will make adjustments to keep within that cost.