BARRE — It won’t be quite as grand as originally planned, but the much-discussed makeover of City Hall is now just weeks away.
This week the City Council pulled the trigger on a series of contracts tied to an extensive exterior renovation that will be financed with some of the money that former Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city at his death in 2009.
City Manager Steve Mackenzie said the $165,000 investment — $50,000 more than initially contemplated — is befitting a building of City Hall’s stature, though it won’t come close to covering all aspects of the project based on bids recently received from local vendors.
Mackenzie, who had estimated the improvements might cost nearly $115,000, said he was about $100,000 off, and that wasn’t counting the $9,500 the city will pay architect Jay White for his work on the project.
After reviewing the bids with White, Mackenzie recommended dropping some of the more costly components of the proposal, including the planned reconstruction of the entrance to the former police station, in favor of a “core project that hits the items of most need.”
“All of the elements are warranted, but some can be forgone at this point and time and not necessarily compromise our ability to do them later if other sources of funding are found,” he said.
Acting on Mackenzie’s recommendation, councilors accepted a series of low bids for various parts of a multifaceted project designed to enhance the appearance of a historic structure that White said could use some attention.
“(City Hall) is really the front door of the city,” he said.
Lajeunesse Construction was hired to do most of the general restoration — more than $68,000 worth — and all of the electrical work — just over $5,300 worth.
The general restoration work ranges from removing, sandblasting, repainting and replacing the rusting fire escape on the Prospect Street side of City Hall to restoring the balcony, repainting the window casings and replacing a handicapped access ramp.
Though the electrical work was cut back significantly, the plan still calls for replacing light fixtures and lighting the Barre Opera House’s signature stained glass window.
Another Barre contractor, E.F. Wall & Associates, was awarded the contract to restore the main entrance — a project that will include the installation of two new custom-made oak doors. That work will cost $23,652.
The contract for the masonry work was split between two local businesses, one that will deal exclusively with brick and the other with granite. Duffy Gardner Masonry, of Montpelier, will be paid $13,500 to repoint the brickwork at City Hall and clean the rust stains that can be traced to the building’s aging fire escape. Meanwhile, the Granite Corp. of Barre will be paid $30,649 to replace the granite steps at the front entrance to City Hall. In an effort to cut costs, a plan to install granite blocks in the basement windows was dropped for a savings of $10,000.
Skipping plans to reconstruct the façade of the former police station saved nearly $30,000, and dropping the restoration of the Prospect Street entrance trimmed an additional $9,200 from the total cost of the work.
Mackenzie said the work will start as soon as possible and should be under way by May 1.
The council had tentatively set aside $125,000 from the so-called Semprebon Fund to pay for the work. An additional $40,000 will be needed, though it is unclear whether that will come from Semprebon’s primary bequest to the city or from a life annuity that has already generated roughly $200,000 in annual installments of approximately $50,000.
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