I’m writing to respond to Sandy Sommers’ letter to the editor published Tuesday. In that letter, the writer chastises Secretary of Administration Spaulding for moving the Department of Education to Barre at a cost (as the writer claims) of “$400 per square foot.”
The writer goes on to claim that better alternatives would have been to “stay where it is at no additional cost, or move to a renovated building that the state already owns, e.g. the state complex, at a cost of $50 per square foot.”
The writer’s letter is incorrect in virtually all factual respects. The future home of the Vermont Department of Education in Barre is being constructed at a net cost of approximately $13 million. The total project is approximately 83,000 square feet. That places the per square foot cost at $156.63, less than half the $400 that the writer recklessly quoted.
By any measure, City Place was, and continues to be, a fiscally prudent decision by the administration. We’re looking forward to welcoming DOE employees to Barre and are proud to have presented a project that offers both economies of scale and operating efficiency to Vermont taxpayers. The cost to replace the damaged state facility in Waterbury has been estimated to be approximately $124.6 million. The May 2012 report submitted to FEMA cites the total square footage as being 273,503. That places the per square foot cost at approximately $457.03, almost 10 times the cost that the writer cites in the letter.
While the Waterbury facility is slightly more than other presented alternatives, none of the alternatives offered the opportunity to mass 273,503 square feet in one location. This efficiency alone justifies the additional upfront cost and will serve Vermont well in the future. Once again, the decision to rebuild in Waterbury was, and continues to be, a fiscally sound decision. Like Barre, I’m sure Waterbury officials are looking forward to once again hosting our state employees. With regard to the current home(s) of the department, I believe the administration’s report very accurately detailed the facility deficiencies and pitfalls of multiple locations in its report to the Legislature.
With regard to this facility being “free,” I suspect the current landlord would take issue with that statement. The administration, Buildings and General Services, Legislature, state employees and local officials have all done an outstanding job of moving Vermont forward in the wake of Irene. The construction and renovation plans presented by the administration and endorsed by the Legislature are fiscally sound and defensible, as long as we can count on critics to debate us on the facts. If the writer has an ax to grind with Barre, Waterbury or the administration, please grind your ax somewhere else.
I don’t welcome attacks on my city, especially when one plays fast and loose with the facts.
Mayor Thomas J. Lauzon
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