Town Hall Project Overview
The Town of Hamilton’s Town Hall Building Committee is interested in residents’ thoughts on the Hamilton Town Hall Renovation project. Please review the following background information and then take the survey to share your thoughts. Please click here to access the Town Hall Renovation Project Survey.
The Hamilton Board of Selectmen voted unanimously on March 15, 2021 to add the Hamilton Town Hall Renovation Project to the May 1 Town Meeting Warrant and ballot on May 6. Town Hall Building Committee Chair Michael Twomey announced that the ask to taxpayers would be $3.4M, which is $1.2 million less than the request in 2020. This is 27% less than December. With taxpayer approval, this project will be ready to break ground this Summer.
The bulk of new savings to taxpayers comes from an additional $1M grant approved by the Hamilton Community Preservation Committee (CPC). The general contractor has agreed to hold to their Fall 2020 bid through the end of May 2021, despite a construction market that is heating up.
History of Town Hall
Hamilton Town Hall was built in 1898 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Hamilton Historic District. The building has never had a significant renovation, and requires updates to bring it up to code, address structural issues, and make it better accessible and organized for the town’s needs today.
Renovation Planning Process
In 2017, the Town of Hamilton appointed a Town Hall Building Committee, which has guided the process of getting community input on design and scope, assessing problems and needs, bidding out the project, working to find sources of funding, and informing the Board of Selectmen and community about progress.
The Town Hall Building Committee is surveying residents about the project, and will hold Zoom information sessions for residents and local organizations in the weeks leading up to the May 1st Town Meeting and the May 6th election.
What Work is Planned?
This project includes the addition of an elevator, accessible bathrooms, new ramp, expanded parking, and other ADA features to make the building accessible to all. The Memorial Meeting Room will also be an accessible space for outside groups to use.
Additional key projects include the addition of a fire protection system, restoration of the cupola, expansion of the vault that holds required hard copy of town records, and a reconfiguration of offices that will allow the Memorial Meeting Room to return to its original use as a community hall. The building will support sustainability and lower operating costs by using green technology to lower water and electrical usage. The renovation includes new mechanical systems (HVAC), plumbing, electrical, septic, and IT systems. The project will retain and restore historic architectural details, as required in the Hamilton Historic District.
When would this happen?
The Town Hall Renovation project is now “shovel ready” awaiting only project and budget approval by the voters in May.
Construction is expected to take around a year, and could start in the Summer of 2021 if approved by voters. The Town of Hamilton has secured temporary office space from Gordon College for the duration of the project at a rental cost of $1.
How much will it cost?
The anticipated total cost for this project is $8,671,127, which is based on firm bid that came in lower than projected, and in line with the costs for similar Town Hall renovation projects in Massachusetts. All but $3.4M in funding has been lined up from existing sources, including a $4,475,000 Community Preservation Committee (CPC) grant for which the building is eligible under historic preservation. These funds are already designated for this project. A newly constructed building would not be eligible for any CPC funding, meaning the cost of building would fall more heavily on taxpayers.
Taxpayers will be voting at the May 1 Town Meeting whether to move forward on the project and at the polls on May 6 on whether to allow the Town to seek a $3.4M bond to cover the remaining cost, to be paid over a number of years. This amount is $1.2M+ less than the $4,683,155 ask in December 2020.
Why do it now during a tough financial year for people?
The Town Hall Building Committee recommends moving forward on this project now in part for the following reasons:
- There is a firm bid in hand that will hold through May 2021. Construction prices for supplies have gone through the roof, and future bids would likely cost significantly more.
- Through additional funding and cost adjustments, the burden on taxpayers will be $1.2M less than last December without any change to the project scope. This number is unlikely to hold after May 2021.
- The majority of funding (61%) has been lined up with no tax impact on residents. $3.2M is far less than the $6M spent on the Public Safety Building Complex 20 years ago.
- The construction market is heating up making future bidding less favorable to the Town. Rebidding this project would cost $8,000-$10,000 and take at least three months by state law.
- As an old building, costs of deferring maintenance and the risk of a fire or other catastrophe go up over time.
- Interest rates are historically low.
- The Town has lined up temporary office space that will cost only $1 in rent.
- Plans are ready, financing is secure, and the general contractor is ready to start.
- Four years of volunteer staff time has already gone into this project. Starting again in the future would likely require another round of start up and design costs.
- There are no other large town or school construction projects in the works.
- As the pandemic fades, the economy and job prospects are expected to improve. In addition, this year the schools are not seeking an override vote, so property taxes are remaining fairly stable.
- Hamilton residents deserve a Town Hall that is accessible to all and which better serves the needs of our community.
Couldn’t the money be spent elsewhere?
No. The already raised funds are designated and cannot be redirected to other projects, most of which would not qualify. CPC grants are restricted to funding three categories of projects and must be spent in each of them: historic preservation; open space and recreation; and community housing. By statute, CPC grant funds cannot be used for schools, non-historic buildings, or the turf material for a turf field, which are other future projects people are thinking about in town.
How can I learn more?
Please take the Town Hall Renovation survey and share your thoughts. The Town Hall Building Committee will post more information to the Town’s web site and will be hosting Zoom information sessions for individuals and groups leading up to the May vote. Please indicate your interest in joining one of these in the survey.