Friday, October 30, 2009
Highland Building committees coordinate action plans
Highland Building committees for stabilization and future uses met on Thursday, October 22, in Town Hall to formulate action plans and coordinate their activities.
Repairs and stabilization
The Stabilization Committee opened with committee member John Ballantine suggesting “firming up a parking plan and an agreement with the Congregational Church, which is now under new administration, with a new pastor.” He thought a lease agreement would be best, and volunteered to speak with the church. Also, the committee will schedule a walk-through of the building, depending on what is convenient for Fire Chief David Flannery. The committee will also ask Flannery about providing them with a key to the building, so that they may supervise construction.
Committee member Bob Stone was then asked to comment on the process of starting stabilization construction on the building. “Instead of going directly to the [Request for Qualifications] RFQ,” he said, “let’s start with a ‘home inspection-type’ process. Let’s make sure we do have a solid building without any deal-breakers. We should have a professionally prepared report that tells us what is the status of the building ‘as is.’ After that process, we will have a set of facts that could become part of the RFQ.”
Stone provided an outline of what such an inspection would provide and what the next steps should be. It would confine itself to reporting on “existing conditions and systems.” It would lead into developing an RFQ that would request an architectural firm to survey the site and create drawings of the existing building’s architecture, structure and mechanics, as well as performing a code survey that would “document existing violations.”
Master plan suggested
Using information gleaned from the professional inspection, Stone felt that the committee and architects could develop a master plan for the building that would include a “path toward historic restoration,” providing a “vision of what a fully restored Highland exterior would look like,” as well as a concept of how the building could be adapted to any future use. This would be done while “minimizing interior renovations and leaving the floor plan open for flexibility and adaptation.” In addition, he noted the master plan would identify how to bring the building up to code, including handicapped accessibility.
Finally, Stone’s proposal moves the committee to “develop a Highland Building stabilization package, ready for public bidding and construction administration.” Once completed, Stone said, “We could unroll a set of floor plans with specs on ADA compliance, square footage, etc.” He noted, “Getting code compliance would mean dealing with safety, separation from school issues, for example, and we would have drawings that illustrate how to deal with the site.”
Stone said that “stabilization could be complete by June of 2010; it could be a 10-week job.” He volunteered to “get three prices [for the initial inspection]” and to bring a draft of an RFQ for the committee to approve in two weeks.
Will new fire cistern tie in
with school building project?
One special issue is fire safety. School Building Committee chair Lee Storrs stated that the location of a cistern that would cover the fire sprinklers for the new school construction is still undecided.
Committee members thought that ideally, the Highland Building would tap into that system. This would mean coordination with the school project. The Selectmen would resolve who pays for the cistern that will supply the sprinkler system. At least a 40,000-gallon tank would be needed to feed the Highland Building and school, and it would have to be consistent with school needs. According to committee member Alan Carpenito, it would cost about $100,000 to install a cistern next to the Highland Building and about $25,000 for a sprinkler system there.
Storrs said he would check with the school architect and fire protection engineer to find out what the school needs are and how to coordinate them with the Highland Building’s needs. He will carry with him questions raised at this meeting about the system, including: Does it make sense for the cistern to be installed near the Highland Building for mutual use? Would the Highland project share the cost with the school? If the school installs the system, is it possible to get 40% reimbursement from the state for a cistern that also covers the Highland Building? Should the Highland committees consider a temporary cistern or simply install a sprinkler system for later hookup with the school cistern?
Group begins study of future uses
Vice chair of the Highland committees Nathan Brown then called to order the meeting of the Highland Future Committee. The committee decided that since the Recreation Commission (RecCom) has expressed strong interest in using the building, in fact in moving the RecCom office there, they should be notified of meetings as a courtesy.
This suggestion prompted a discussion of what other organizations might want to use the building and how the committee can best communicate with them. John Ballantine wondered what is actually meant by community use: “Who is the community? Whom do we talk to? Do we mean town departments and committees or do we include other groups like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts? Are there other organizations that could provide a revenue stream that could use it?”
Brown suggested that the committee brainstorm to identify various potential users and come up with a questionnaire to determine what special needs users might have. The committee could then distribute the form to potential users to determine how the building would be configured for best possible use. For example, the committee offered several questions, including: What hours would the groups need the space? Would these involve regularly scheduled hours? Would the group be using the space all the time (as in for offices)? What are the groups’ needs with regard to square-footage? Would there be a need for open space and/or office space? Would there be a need for kitchen facilities and/or storage space? What would be the parking needs? What would be peak times for traffic? What are the safety and security needs, i.e. would there be a need for CORI checks or specific devices on the building? How many people would be involved? Would there be infrastructure needs, like data connections? Are the groups revenue-generating?
At the next meeting, committee members will discuss a list of potential users, offer ways to publicize a request for use, and, on the basis of Brown’s draft of the questions raised at this meeting, formulate the final draft of their survey questionnaire.
Meetings of both the Highland committees will take place every two weeks, with the next planned for November 5. The Highland Stabilization Committee will meet at 7 p.m. and the Highland Future Committee will meet at 8 p.m. ∆
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