WEST NEWBURY — More than 20 contractors have expressed interest in a $1.85 million restoration project for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on Main Street.
That has been the response so far to a request for qualifications recently issued by the town. The deadline for responses is Dec 17, Town Manager Angus Jennings told selectmen Monday. An optional site inspection will be offered Dec. 9.
Selectmen discussed the need to hire an owner’s representative to oversee the project, which was approved by a one-vote margin at a Special Town Meeting earlier this month.
Since the project to restore the 119-year-old building — also known as the Carr Post — relies mostly on borrowing money, a two-thirds vote was required at Town Meeting.
When the final tally — 115-57 in favor — was determined to be a tie in terms of the required two-thirds vote, Town Moderator Kathleen “KC” Swallow broke it by voting in favor of the motion.
Voters agreed to use $1.5 million in current and future Community Preservation Act money to restore the cherished landmark to its former glory. Once completed and paid for, the project is estimated to cost $1.85 million.
Selectmen also considered options for the makeup and charge of a committee of volunteers to work with the design and construction team on behalf of taxpayers, making sure the values and wishes of the town are reflected in the end result.
The committee would report back to selectmen with updates on the project and for final approval on major decisions.
With all three selectmen expressing interest in keeping the committee small, they contemplated seating a three-member panel, with Public Works Director Wayne Amaral serving as a nonvoting ex officio.
But with time being of the essence to secure and protect the aging building, Jennings suggested forgoing a committee in favor of naming just one well-qualified person who would handle day-to-day matters and bring major issues before selectmen, who would act on them as owners of the building.
Selectman Rick Parker noted the value of knowing who may be willing to volunteer for the committee before deciding on its size and charge.
Selectmen ultimately agreed to hold off on taking any action, instead asking Jennings to get the word out about the need for volunteers — particularly residents with construction or engineering backgrounds. Selectmen plan to vote on the new committee's makeup and charge at their next meeting Dec. 9.
The classic Gothic revival brick edifice at 363 Main St. was constructed as a Civil War memorial in 1900. The hall, listed on the National Registry of Historic Places since 2016, hall served as a library for 12 years and for many subsequent years as a meeting space for military veterans and community organizations.
The selectmen’s meeting began with a letter of commendation from police Chief Jeff Durand, who praised Sgt. Dan Cena and Officer Rich Parenteau for saving the life of an unresponsive resident Oct 30.
The two first responders provided CPR, rescue breathing and used a cardiac defibrillator. As he presented them with ribbons to wear on their dress uniforms, Durand recognized the men’s professionalism and commitment to serving the community. The audience gave the two lifesavers a round of applause.
Susan Babb was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Housing Authority until the next town election; and Cheryl Grant was named to the Board of Registrars.
Residents are encouraged to take the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness survey, which can be found at www/wnewbury.org or at West Newbury Foodmart.
Selectmen went into executive session at the start of the meeting Monday to receive personnel updates related to contract negotiations or collective bargaining; to discuss the agricultural preservation and memorandum of understanding on the Brown Spring Farm property; and to speak with town counsel about issues related to permitting and inspections for the new regional school building project.
The town offices will reopen Monday after being closed for the holiday. The annual tree lighting at the Training Field is Thursday at 6 p.m. All are invited for caroling and refreshments.