Town Hall listening session 2 – summary report

Town Hall Project

Listening Session 2

January 12, 2020

At 3 p.m. there were 30 people in the room; 15 more filtered in over the next hour. Jeff Gill began his presentation about 3:05 p.m. “If the warrant passes,” Gill said, “then we have a better chance of getting the LCHIP grant.” (LCHIP stands for Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, a state entity that announces grant awards each December.) If Wilmot received an LCHIP grant, it would cover up to 50% of the cost of the town hall project.

Why rehabilitation rather than restoration? Because of LCHIP’s criteria for each category. Money for restoration can only be used to put a building back into its original state. Rehabilitation permits enhancements that modernize the building.

Options

  • Build a new town hall at the site of the highway department on Route 4A.
  • Repair the historic town hall, but leave it at its current elevation, which is within the 100-year floodplain.
  • Raise the town hall to the elevation of the library, which is above the 500-year floodplain[1].

The above do not correspond to the options listed in the feasability report. For complete list of those options, download the report via the link at the Wilmot website.

The facilities committee, of which Gill is the chair, proceeded with their evaluation of options based on opinions expressed in the Wilmot Master Plan of 2018, which was written with much public input. The plan states that town residents wish to preserve the historical features of Wilmot, and they believe it is worth spending money to do so.

At present the building is not insulated and is very expensive to heat in the winter. One of the proposed components of the rehabilitation plan is to insulate the building so that it can be used affordably year-round. This will help expand opportunities for holding revenue-raising events at the location.

The most immediate danger to the building is the rot in the floor, which is causing parts of the floor to sag. The rot is caused by periodic flooding of Kimpton Brook, which gets through the stone foundation and soaks the floor joists. The wetting and drying causes rot. Gill made the analogy to the intertidal portion of a pier.

The flooding is caused by the bottleneck created by the North Wilmot Road bridge downstream of a broad marsh north of the town hall and the library.

The floor of the library is 2.02 feet above the floor of the town hall. The 500-year flood plain is 1.86 feet above the floor of the town hall. Floods in 2017 and 2010 are the most recent inundations to reach under the town hall. The failing joists are at present propped up in an improvised way with rocks.

A local engineer proposed pouring a thick concrete slab beneath the building (to raise it above the 100-year floodplain), place “sleepers” across the slab and build a new floor on top of them. Gill noted that experts recommend against building anything that a flood can push against (and move).

The town has budgeted the money to repair the existing floor. It has been proposed to “sister” the joists rather than replace them. (Sistering involves attaching new joist material parallel to failed sections of the existing joists.) The building would have to be raised up in order to do this work.

Gill explained that LCHIP does not like the appearance of the building to be changed. If the building is raised, the chance of getting grant money is less. However, if the building is raised and the grounds are re-graded to keep the appearance unaltered, then the chance of getting grant money is greater.

The above paragraph was been edited from the original summary text, which did not make clear that retaining the appearance of the building is paramount when it comes to getting LCHIP money.

If the building is raised (and no concrete slab is added), then the ground beneath the building would be sloped to a central collecting point where a sump pump would transport the flood water back to the brook.

Raising the town hall would also entail raising the Joyce Tawney Creativity Lab, which is the building that connects the town hall and the library. At the end of the rehabilitation project all three buildings would be at the same level. In order to facilitate access, the ground in front of the town hall and the lab would be re-graded to slope gently upward from the parking area.

Sketches of all the different options are available to see in the feasibility study (which can be downloaded from the Wilmot website).

Parts of the proposed rehabilitation that goes beyond simply saving the building from flood damage:

  • Insulate it and improve the heating system.
  • Gill had originally entertained the idea of radiant heat in the floor but was advised against it because the space is not used regularly.
  • A commercial baseboard system was proposed.
  • Remove the safe (located to right of the front door as you enter). It presently holds town records and they will be stored elsewhere. Although the safe will be removed, the door will remain.
  • Repair the tin ceiling.
  • Upgrade the electrical systems, especially on the second floor and near the stage.
  • Install a generator for the town hall, lab, and library.
  • Drill a new well to have potable water on site.
  • Upgrade the bathrooms.

What is not in the scope of the rehabilitation?

  • Archiving documents in the town safe on site.
  • Anything done across the road at 14 North Wilmot Road.
  • Any work associated with the North Wilmot Road bridge.
  • Cost of a propane tank upgrade.
  • Cost to move books in the library while the creativity lab is being raised.
  • Cost of using other spaces for town hall activities during the construction.

Next things

  • Present options to the select board
  • Write ‘intent to apply’ to LCHIP
  • Get bids from contractor
  • Get help from Board and Batten (in grant writing process)
  • Start construction in spring 2021

Altering the bridge

  • Horizons Engineering has estimated lengthening the bridge span to 47 feet would cost $380,000.
  • Highway department can use parts of the old bridge elsewhere to repair other bridges around town.
  • It is not possible to build a berm behind the library and town hall because it would alter the adjacent wetland, which would violate state and federal wetland laws.
  • The budget in the CIP for the town hall project is $333,000 over three years.
  • Raising the building and altering the bridge are nearly the same cost and achieve nearly the same ends, but …
  • If the money available is spent on the bridge, then there would be no money left to repair the floor of the town hall or make other improvements to the building.
  • Studies done to measure the downstream impact of broadening the streambed under the bridge say there would be no negative impacts on downstream properties.
  • Money to replace the bridge is difficult to find because the structure is in good condition. However, engineers now prefer that abutments be made of concrete rather than stone. The stone abutments of the existing bridge (which could be reused elsewhere) might be the feature that qualifies it for state aid.

Other things to consider

  • The floor was said to have 3-5 years of life left and that was a year and a half ago.
  • A new foundation (without a concrete slab) would allow water to flow under the building and either pass through or be pumped out.
  • Raising the building would change its appearance, which LCHIP does not usually like, but the program might accept the change in order to save the building, if the final landscaping is done in such a way as to make it appear that the building was never raised
  • Ed Weaver noted that the 2010 flood was caused by the collapse of two upstream beaver dams, which released a wave of water downstream.

[1] The 100-year and 500-year floods are calculated by looking at historical records of flow (measured by a gauge in the river) and determining statistically what levels of flow have a 1-percent chance (“100-year flood”) or 0.2-percent chance (“500-year flood”) of happening in a given year. But as in successive rolls of dice, there is the same chance ever year. That is, it is possible (though unlikely) to have two 100-year floods two years in a row.

Bill Chaisson
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