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Northfield board eyes Town Hall repairs

Overhaul of original electrical system  in 1927 building estimated at $300,000

Recorder/Peter MacDonald
Northfield town hall building has had renovations

Recorder/Peter MacDonald Northfield town hall building has had renovations

NORTHFIELD — The Selectboard is considering nearly $500,000 in capital expenses for the coming fiscal year.

That figure is likely to change quite a bit, as Selectboard members prioritize several different projects.

“I’d like to do all of these projects, but the reality is, there’s not enough money to fund them,” said Selectboard member Jack Spanbauer.

The costliest item asks that $200,000 be put into a stabilization fund to pay for a new fire truck. This would be the last of three installments, bringing the total to $450,000.

The board is considering whether to ask the town for $150,000 to repair the electrical system in Town Hall. The town has received an estimate of about $370,000 for the entire project, but the board thinks it can be done for $300,000. The board has said the repairs would most likely be done in phases, and could be done over the next few years.

“We need half (of that $300,000) to do anything meaningful,” said Kathy Wright, Selectboard chairwoman. “It would also give us the flexibility to deal with things that come up,” like repairing ceilings and walls after they’ve been opened up to work on the wiring.

The project would overhaul the electrical system installed when the Town Hall was built in 1927, and bring it up to current code requirements.

Even in stages, the repairs could be a hard sell for town meeting voters. Town Administrator Tom Hutcheson suggested borrowing money to do all the repairs at once.

“(Interest rates) are low right now,” he said. “We could do all the work now, and pay over time. It would be cheaper if we did it all now than if we did it in chunks over time.”

Spanbauer said it could be hard to persuade residents to borrow the money.

“We would need a debt exclusion, and odds are that it won’t pass,” said Spanbauer.

Another project would give the Selectboard a new meeting room and office in the Town Hall’s second floor. The board will consider asking $50,000 for the project, which has been estimated to cost as much as $127,000, depending on what type of heating system would be used.

A new police cruiser could cost the town $34,000 to $38,000, for a sedan or SUV, respectively.

Repairs to the Town Hall sewer system, and the installation of a canopy over the building’s rear doors were proposed for $35,000. Another option presented to the board is to ask $20,000 for the sewer work, and consider the canopy later.

The least expensive item would ask $4,000 to provide two fireproof safes for the town clerk.

The board discussed the capital items at Tuesday’s Selectboard meeting, and individual members were asked to prioritize the list before their Feb. 19 meeting.

Three more items didn’t make the cut, as there were no cost estimates for them yet. They were exterior Town Hall repairs, an engineering study on the drainage of the Town Hall parking lot, and a Town Hall space needs study.

Several Town Hall repairs could be done with $14,811 that’s left from the $18,000 approved by last year’s annual town meeting, for specific Town Hall projects. The proposed projects include repairing or replacing a storage shed behind Town Hall and pouring a concrete pad underneath it, tearing down an old emergency exit on the back of the building to make way for the canopy, paving the north and south driveways, replacing propane tanks and moving them to the Boy Scout house, and painting Town Hall’s windows and trim.

To do those repairs, residents have to approve the re-purposing of those already appropriated funds at the special town meeting set for Feb. 25, 7 p.m., at Pioneer Valley Regional School.

David Rainville can be reached at:
drainville@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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