Bath armory work could cost more than $300K

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BATH — A basic renovation of the former National Guard Armory – enough to potentially allow the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark to use the building – could cost $308,000, the City Council learned Wednesday.

Ron Norton of Construction Management Consulting Services, the firm asked to come up with the cost, said in a letter to the council that a starting budget of $1.8 million created by Stephen Blatt Architects “was for a total transformation from an Armory to a like-new facility with design and aesthetic accouterments.”

Focusing on a “base-line” scope of work necessary to run the Skatepark, Norton whittled the cost down to $308,000. He said the savings came from “doing work only in the areas that are to be used for the skate board park. The lower level work is only to the level necessary for code compliance and safety. Work beyond this can be designed, priced and completed based on the actual future use of the space.”

He also said spending $308,000 would allow the Skatepark “to function as efficiently as, and probably more efficiently than, in its current location.”

That location, the old YMCA on Summer Street, is dilapidated and pegged for demolition early in 2012. Earlier this month the council gave unanimous first approval to borrowing up to $450,000 to demolish the building, and the bond ordinance is expected to receive final approval next month.

The council had also authorized the Parks and Recreation Department to move the existing assets of the Bath Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark to the Old Brunswick Road armory for storage until a use for the building has been determined.

Besides being a possible new home for the Skatepark, another proposed use for the armory is to have it house the local Box 19 Club’s antique fire trucks.

City Manager Bill Giroux said after Wednesday’s meeting that the council on Nov. 2 will consider authorizing borrowing the $308,000. With interest included over a 10-year loan, the estimated cost could be between $35,000 and $40,000 a year.

Jackie Dwinal of Washington Street agreed that the Skatepark needs a place, but expressed concern about the impact on Bath taxpayers.

“I think all of this has to go out to the voters,” she said, adding that the city’s purchase of the armory should have gone that way, too.

Parks and Recreation Director Steve Balboni, whose department maintains the old Y, said the Skatepark board is willing to forgo its $40,000 annual subsidy from the city so that the cost of the borrowing would not fall on taxpayers. He expressed confidence in the board’s ability to make up the lost funds through fundraising.

Balboni said the Skatepark’s revenue and use should increase if it moves to the armory, because that building is closer to Bath Middle School, which many of the Skatepark’s young patrons attend.

He said it’s important for teenagers to have a place to go in their free time, and said the Youth Meetinghouse and Skatepark is an arts, film and music center, with a computer lab, cafe, and mentoring and tutoring opportunities.

“At this point the ball is truly in your court,” Balboni told the council. “… Some decisions need to be made in order for us to plan the next step.”

Giroux said there could be a separate order Nov. 2 concerning whether the Skatepark should move to the armory.

The council approved borrowing up to $175,000 last year for the purchase, bu councilors Wednesday also discussed sending the armory question to a referendum vote, and that option could come up again next month.

Norton said the renovation work could take about three months. The biggest expense would be a $55,000 sprinkler system for the building. Other major components are $41,000 for drywall and insulation, $25,000 for flooring, $24,000 for plumbing and $17,000 for accessibility improvements.

“I feel real good about the pricing,” Norton told the council. “… At the end of the day, if this is what you choose to do, when you walk in you’ll be proud of what you got.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.