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Building Bond Delayed to ’14 In Hartford

Municipal Plan to Be Selected Before Funding is Requested 

White River Junction — Looking forward to the renovated Hartford Municipal Building? Give it a couple more years.

Work on the improved town offices, for which voters passed a $4.9 million bond at Town Meeting three weeks ago, will be completed in April 2015, said Matt Bucy, a representative from Hartford’s Municipal Building Advisory Committee.

At a Selectboard meeting last night, Bucy outlined the committee’s proposed timetable for hiring architects and contractors, along with additional specific benchmarks. Under the plan, the search process for architects will begin on April 1. Construction will begin exactly a year later and should be finished the following year .

“This is basically the first step to moving down the road toward renovation,” Bucy said.

After 45 minutes of discussion, the plan passed unanimously, but not without some concern from Selectman Alex DeFelice, who wondered about the process of procuring the funds needed for the project.

“I want to know how this board is going to address the public on why we’re not going to take the bond out this May,” he said. “Because a lot of this promoting the bond was, ‘this was such a great time because interest rates are the lowest they’ve ever been.’ How are we going to address that?”

Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg, who has the authority to make the bond request, said that with so many facets of the project still up in the air, it wouldn’t be smart to do it in May, when the process with the Vermont Municipal Bond Bank begins. For instance, he said, there is not a hard and fast price tag for the project yet, which could come in below the $4.9 million the town can request.

“I would be very uncomfortable suggesting to you that you bond this project without having a firm number,” Rieseberg told the board.

The town will, however, ask for money for the other bond passed at Town Meeting, a $9 million request to renovate town- and school-owned athletic fields and recreation facilities, including the Wendell A. Barwood Arena.

“I’m good with all those,” Rieseberg said. “This one I don’t know. We don’t know what the final design is going to be.”

Earlier, Selectman F.X. Flinn noted that, if the town bonded this year and let the money sit in the bank unused for about 10 months, the interest payment on that would ultimately come out to more than the cost of waiting a year.

Interest rates would have to increase “many, many percentage points” to make bonding next year the less favorable option, Flinn said.

Citing his colleagues’ explanations, DeFelice ultimately chose to vote in favor of the committee’s proposal.

The Municipal Building renovation will mark the first large-scale work done on the 129-year-old building since the 1950s.

The very next move for the committee is to create a group of up to five town “stakeholders,” which could be members of other town commissions or other “qualified individuals,” the proposal states, who will push the project forward alongside the core advisory committee. Rieseberg will serve on that group as vice chairman.

Afterward, a request for proposals will be sent out on April 1, Bucy said, if all goes according to plan. The applicants will be whittled down, over the course of several months, until one is chosen at the beginning of August.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.