Clarification: A printed copy of this story in the May 2 issue did not include other second-floor possibilities under Option 1B. Since then, selectmen have voted to move forward using Option 1B and will discuss the many options available with the plan.

HARVARD -- The Board of Selectmen caught some heat in a public input meeting on the town hall renovations on Monday night, as residents heard the multitude of different renovation plans.

Drayton Fair of LLB Architects presented three major options for the first and second floors of town hall. The whole idea behind "Option 1," Fair explained, was to touch the first floor as little as possible.

Variations of Option 1, 1a and 1b, do not include the original Town Clerk counter but instead extends the side counters of the entry room, creating a small corridor toward the building inspector and veteran's agent's office and the break room.

Option 1a provides two possibilities for the second floor, one with and without the extension of the stage platform. In both instances, a conference room and data/cable room are behind the stage. A new handicap stage lift would be installed on the front right side of the building.

Option 1b has no stage on the second floor, but rather bathrooms and a break and copy room toward the back. In this scenario, the lift would be on the front left side of the building.

In all cases, the second floor consists of a vast meeting room, as the board of health, land use and town administrator officials are moved downstairs.

Option 2 provides an even longer corridor on the first floor, getting rid of the side counters and leading people toward the back of the building, where the town clerk sits behind a counter.

The second floor of Option 2 has bathrooms and a conference room toward the back, with the lift on the left.

Fair presented two options for insulation, one which involves a spray foam and another using blown-in cellulose. The difference is about $46,000, with the cellulose as the cheaper option.

The base construction cost for Option 1 and its variations is about $1.1 million, while Option 2 is about $1.4 million.

The total cost, however, could vary from $2.2 million to $2.3 million, depending on whether residents choose certain options. The town has $2.3 million to spend.

Fair explained that including air-conditioning for the second-floor meeting room would require an upgrade to the electrical service, an extra cost of about $415,000. Without the A/C, however, the renovation will still include electric wiring upgrades.

It's the second attempt to build an outline for the renovation since the first plan wound up carrying expenses beyond the $ 3.9 million that voters originally approved.

Selectmen took over the project in November, nudging the Town Hall Building Committee to the side after voters rejected a request for an additional $1 million. The current $2.3 million is what is left over in the original $3.9 million budget.

After voicing his concerns about upgrading the electrical system, Billy Salter asked why the board of selectmen "has essentially blown off the building committee since October."

"Do you feel like that's worked out well, and does that serve as a useful example for how the selectmen will proceed in the future?"

Speaking for himself, Selectman Chair Stu Sklar said that the building committee has done a lot of good and important work, and said he would like to use the building committee when plans move forward.

Also speaking for himself, Selectman Leo Blair said it's important to work with the committee, but it's equally important to speak up if they don't agree with them.

"I don't think that just creating the committee means that everything you're going to get from them is pure gold," he said, adding that a lot of the work that was done on the project was not done very well. 

The clock is ticking, Blair argued, and as time goes on everything is going to get more expensive and complicated.

"It seemed the most efficient way would be to try and build a consensus among the board, which we thought was necessary going forward," he said, "and to get to a point where we had narrowed down options within the fiscal constraints of what we think we have to work with."

But selectmen also received relevant input, as one resident highlighted the importance of window replacement. Another questioned whether the lack of a vapor barrier, as one design option posed, would cause the structure to rot.

Fair said that wooden buildings always have a risk of rotting, although historic ones tend to breathe.

"The moisture tends to go back and forth through the walls of historic buildings more than through a super-insulated building," he said.

Selectmen will need to decide which plan and options fit the town as the project moves forward.

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