West Tisbury selectmen at their meeting this week unanimously agreed to authorize executive secretary Jennifer Rand to enter into a contract with a Falmouth-based general contractor to begin work on the long-awaited town hall renovation project.

J.K. Scanlon of East Falmouth was awarded the bid after coming in approximately $600,000 lower than expected.

Bea Phear, chairman of the town hall renovation committee, told selectmen the base bid for the project was $3.34 million; secondary bids will bring the overall cost of the contract to $3.41 million. Ms. Phear said there were a total of six bids, and all but one were within the limits approved by voters at the annual town meeting in April.

Three of the lowest bids were within two per cent of one another, she said.

Ms. Phear said J.K. Scanlon is a reputable company with a solid track record. She said change orders and other variables may result in additional costs to the project, but she said the lower-than-expected bid came as great news.

After three tries, West Tisbury voters approved the $5.2 million town hall renovation project at their annual town meeting in April. The approved plan was the third attempt in four years to renovate the 130-year old mansard-roofed former school house. Voters approved $3.7 million for the project in 2004, but later balked at a large projected cost overrun in 2005. The project then went back to the drawing board.

Current plans call for the renovation and restoration of the building, as well as the construction of an addition, new parking areas, landscaping and other improvements. The project will be paid for by a combination of borrowing and community preservation act funds.

Ms. Phear said construction is expected to last approximately 18 months. She said town employees are tentatively scheduled to be moved into temporary trailers and the old library building on Sept. 18. She said two temporary office trailers and two storage trailers will be brought on site in the coming weeks.