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Report: Falmouth Town Hall needs expensive fixes

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Report: Falmouth Town Hall needs expensive fixes

FALMOUTH — A new study recommends about $930,000 in renovations to Town Hall, ranging from air quality repairs to aesthetic improvements.

The study, which cost $20,000 and was completed in July by Oak Point Associates of Biddeford, details deficiencies in configuration, appearance, energy efficiency, structural integrity and indoor air quality.

Town Council Chairwoman Teresa Pierce said although the recommendations cover a range of areas, the council is primarily concerned with energy efficiency and environmental health and safety issues. 

"I think the priority is to create a safe and healthy work environment for the people at Town Hall," Pierce said. "While it's  a comprehensive look, we're definitely not committed to the entire project. We'll want to look at each element and find the top priorities."

Pierce said the council will take a "phased" approach to the study's findings to determine how to implement the plan, whether that is all at once or fitting into a longer-term capital improvement plan.

"We're trying to be as prudent with money as possible, but there is work that needs to be done on the inside and outside of the building," she said.

One of the most critical recommendations involves air quality in the building.

According to the report, the building's crawl space has "elevated levels of mold spore activity" that is being passively vented into the first-floor office space. As a result, the town has since sealed off the vents.

The report also says ceiling tiles have been damaged by pipe condensation, and rodent urine and feces.

To address the crawl-space problems, Oak Point recommends about $142,000 in renovations, including new drainage systems and insulation; replacing basement windows, and installing a de-humidification system.

The most expensive recommendation is to upgrade the exterior of the building, at  a cost of more than $350,000. Oak Point's review found the siding, windows and insulation are not energy efficient.

The report recommends replacing the current siding – a combination of asbestos siding over wood clapboards, vinyl siding over concrete block, and vinyl siding on sheathing – with cement fiber board.

In addition, urethane foam and Styrofoam board insulation should be installed in the 1900s and 1960s portions of the building, respectively, according to the report. The report also recommends replacing the windows with clad wood units with insulating glass, replacing exterior doors, and installing new insulation in the attic.

The second most expensive recommendation is $262,000 worth of upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems.

A large part of that would be to replace the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units serving the town clerk's office area on the first floor. The renovation would also include new signs, fire alarms, a new electric water cooler, and repair of faulty electrical equipment in the Falmouth Food Pantry, among other items.

The study also recommends considers redesigning interior space to better accommodate work flow, which would also create additional room for the food pantry. These renovations are expected to cost $120,000, according to the report.

Town Hall has had two major additions and renovations since its construction in 1900. The first addition in 1960 is now the home of the food pantry and was formerly the police station. The building's last renovation was in 1990, which added the portion that includes the Town Council Chambers.

The recommended reconfiguration would bring the Planning and Finance departments together in their own area to enhance workplace communication. The council chambers are also noted as being too small.

Perhaps the most significant piece of the space renovation would be to increase the food pantry from 550 square feet to 880 square feet, by allowing it to use office space now occupied by the Finance Department. The plan acknowledges the pantry could realistically use between 1,100 and 1,650 square feet.

While the renovation proposal focuses on one plan of action, it provides limited detail about other options the town might consider, including moving Community Programs to the vacant former Motz School building.

This would free additional space at Town Hall and possibly provide additional space for the pantry, according to Oak Point, which also looked at Freeport and Cumberland food pantries for comparisons.

The pantry currently serves 35 families a day and has seen demand for its services grow dramatically in the last few years. The pantry portion of the study was paid for by a $3,300 Community Development Block Grant from Cumberland County.

Oak Point also estimates about $55,000 is needed for additional site work, including landscaping, parking lot lighting, and a flag pole.

The council could adopt the proposal as is, without voter approval, because the cost does not exceed the $1 million threshold established by the Town Charter.

But while councilors discussed the renovations at a retreat in July, they are expected to formally discuss them again publicly in the fall, Pierce said.

"We haven't really kicked the tires of the report yet," she said. "We'll need to look into what's a necessity and what's not. ... For me, personally, it's more about how to get the best bang for the buck."

Will Graff can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or wgraff@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @W_C_Graff.