Selectmen review $4.6M plan to repair, reopen scaled-back Penfield Pavilion

The wave of meetings to review, discuss and vote on proposed repairs to the Superstorm Sandy-damaged Penfield Pavilion began in earnest Wednesday, with a presentation for the Board of Selectmen on a building committee's recommended option to reopen the beachfront structure.

The east wing housing lockers would be demolished and replaced with a smaller addition, while the west wing would be elevated on new pilings under the plan backed by the Penfield Building Committee.

The price tag for this option -- one of many considered by the committee -- is $4.6 million. The proposal has also gotten the endorsement of the Parks and Recreation Commission, and the selectmen plan to vote at their next meeting later this month.

The building committee wants to hear the public's reaction at a forum set for 6 p.m. next Thursday in the Board of Education conference room on Kings Highway East.

The plan would require moving the pavilion's west wing into the parking lot while new pilings are driven, and then returning the building to its original location. After the east wing that housed lockers is demolished, in its place a smaller changing room and bathrooms would be constructed.

The pavilion, which in August 2011 had marked completion of a two-year, nearly $5 million reconstruction plan, was undermined by storm surges during Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. The structure has been closed since then as town officials have considered various scenarios to repair it.

After listening to Wednesday's presentation, Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey asked how much discussion there was at the building committee level regarding the more than nine options considered to repair the pavilion.

"We've been through every single option, every which way," committee Chairman James Bradley said. "We went back and forth. We went from $3 million to $7 million and in between."

In a recent presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission, it was noted that there will be a large open space on the shoreline where the lockers are now located, and that space could be used as additional beach or a picnic area, for example. The building will be elevated another 3.5 feet to current regulations set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This is a great beach, and they should have a really good facility," Bradley said. "The new design is a much better balance for the neighborhood, it fits the site better and it's more functional."

Vahey asked about access to the beach for those in wheelchairs or who are pushing strollers or pulling carts, because the pavilion, and the beach underneath it, will be elevated higher than it is now.

Kevin Chamberlain, from engineering firm DeStefano & Chamberlain, Inc., explained that ramps will be installed to provide access to both the beach and the building.

The committee will meet again Aug. 28, and hopes to make presentations to the Board of Finance and the Representative Town Meeting in August for final votes on the proposal in September.

"We need to make sure we can start construction in the first two weeks in October," Bradley said, to have the revamped facility open by the 2015 beach season.

Not all of the building committee members support the recommended option.

Building Committee member William Sapone, who served on the first Penfield committee, has advocated for repairing the structure's damaged footings and protecting the building against future storms with stone rip-rap and a timber bulkhead at a cost of $3.2 million.

Chamberlain previously told the Parks and Recreation Commission that he has no confidence that option would work, and while Bradley said that option has not been discarded altogether, it did not win the support from the engineers.

The town will receive $1.75 million from its insurance company to cover its damage claim, according to First Selectman Michael Tetreau, and also has received a $500,000 state grant to help cover construction costs.

Tetreau said the town is applying for FEMA reimbursement for 75 percent of eligible costs for hazard mitigation and raising the building. "That's a looser number," Tetreau said, although he estimated that the town will likely have to put up between $1.5 million to $2 million of its money for the project.

Bradley said the building committee, which has been meeting twice a month since it was established last December, has been thorough and detailed in approaching its work. Members reviewed the original building plans, the FEMA regulations in place at the time it was built, new FEMA regulations, neighborhood concerns, what happened in Superstorm Sandy, and the type of sand underneath the pavilion. After that, he said, they began to consider their options and whittled 11 different options down to one.

"It's a good committee, and they stuck it out," Bradley said.

Tetreau said a question about the status of the storm-damaged pavilion -- closed since October 2012 -- frequently asked by residents has been, "What's taking so long?"

"We want to make sure we make the right decision for the community," the first selectman said. "Whatever we do, 10 years from now, it better still be standing."

He said that while the committee hopes to get all the necessary approvals in place so it can start construction and open the pavilion next season, "We're not trying to rush anything through. We've taken the time to understand what happened."