The select board reviewed a list of 33 possible items identified by its architect, Barry Hoeg, that could be eliminated or modified. The goal was to shave some of the costs out of the project to entice bids from potential contractors that would come in closer to the projected building's construction budget of approximately $511,000.
Following an hour-long discussion, the board accepted most of the recommended changes and modifications submitted by Hoeg, which are reckoned to result in a savings of approximately $125,000.
A corrugated metal roof chosen over the previous preference for a standing seam one. A budget line item which delegates responsibility to the building contractor for removing excavated soil instead of turning that task over to town personnel was also retained.
After a lengthy discussion on what type of security system should be included, an item calling for an electronic front door lock was eliminated, but the estimated $2,000 savings would be plowed into installing a more comprehensive building security system instead.
Hoeg will incorporate the changes approved by the select board and come back with an re-engineered design for the board to review at its next meeting on Jan. 6. The goal is to rebid the project - for a third time - on Jan. 27, and close the bidding process on Feb. 25, he said.
Construction could then start in early spring, or when the town's geo-technical engineer determines that soil conditions are appropriate to begin the building, he said.
Having a decision on a contractor and an approved bid by March 1, prior to Town meeting Day, was important, said Select Board Chairman Mark Hyde. "I'd like to be able to go into town meeting and have some clarity about what is taking place," he said.
Sunderland's town meeting will be held on Monday, March 3, with Australian ballot voting set for Tuesday, March 4.
The town hall project in Sunderland has been in development for many years, and the town has set aside money each year to place into a fund for the construction of one.
At last year's town meeting, voters approved a $351,000 bond proposal to finance the remainder of the construction. However, when the town went out to solicit bids from potential contractors, two rounds of bidding held earlier this fall failed to produce a qualified contractor who submitted a proposal that fell within the budget of $511,000. The closest ones were between nearly $80,000 to $120,000 higher. That sent the select board and Hoeg back to the drawing board to see where some items could be trimmed in hopes of attracting a contractor to submit a bid at the $511,000 the town has available to spend.
In other business, the select board also made some adjustments to its municipal budget, which it is still in the process of preparing. The board chose to increase the town's equipment reserve fund from $40,000 to $50,000, and boost the equipment maintenance fund by a similar $10,000 amount, from $25,000 to $35,000. The board will also increase the amount of town money set aside for law enforcement services from $8,000 to $16,000, given a reduction in the amount of grant money coming from state or federal sources to offset those costs.
The select board also referred back to the town's school board a proposal to reduce the salary of the school district's treasurer, Rose Keough, who is also the town clerk, from $12,500 to $1,000, phased in over a three year period. The school board is also seeking to have the school district's treasurer's salary become part of the town's municipal budget, rather than the school district's budget. The select board took no action on either proposal, which is anticipated to be discussed at Wednesday's school board meeting, after The Journal's press time.