With the town intending to build a tiered parking deck on Locust Avenue by the end of 2016, the Board of Selectman voted to ask a design firm to prepare preliminary conceptual drawings to help determine the full cost of the project.

The board voted Tuesday to give Desman Design Management $5,000 to update an estimate for a contract to create plans and estimate a cost for the tiered garage meant to ease a space crunch in the downtown.

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi said the design contract estimate is three years old, and needs to be updated from the last rough estimate that a parking structure would cost between $3 million and $3.5 million to build. The project, which is under the control of the Department of Public Works, could be finished by November 2016.

“We think that the support is there for the Locust Avenue garage but the estimate for a design contract is out of date,” Mallozzi said.

Public Works Director Mike Pastore said last week he hoped to hire an architectural design firm for the project by September. Rough estimates are that a new tiered garage with entrances to a deck on Richmond Hill Road and an at-grade entrance on Locust Avenue would add another 89 spots to the current 150 spots in the Locust Avenue surface lot.

The rough design created by STV Incorporated calls for a “doughnut” structure with an open space to allow in natural light, and feature a brick facade and pocket park and is considered by many town officials to be an aesthetic improvement over the current Locust Avenue surface lot.

The board also discussed a draft of a new gift policy to restrict the process for the town to take monetary and non-monetary gifts. Under the draft policy, the first selectman and Board of Selectman would be authorized to accept gifts up to $50,000 on behalf of the town without approval of other town bodies. Gifts of greater value would require the approval of the Town Council under the proposed policy.

The policy also gives the Board of Selectmen the right to oversee that money donated for specific purposes such as supporting the police K-9 Unit or parks programs are used for those purposes as opposed to being returned to the General Fund if left unused, the selectmen said.

“The groups that are donating can feel confident that if funds (are not) used by a certain amount of time they are brought before us and we have the right to keep them directed to what their purpose was,” Mallozzi said. “It doesn’t just go toward a fire truck, or go toward paving or drainage.”

Democratic selectman Beth Jones suggested tweaking the draft policy, which she said if strictly interpreted seems to eliminate the current ability of department heads to receive smaller financial donations or gifts from the public. Seeking approval of the selectmen for even modest gifts could be administratively unwieldy for the town.

“Everything is in the hands of the selectmen and doesn’t allow any other department heads to accept a gift,” Jones told Mallozzi. “It concerns me that we’re not showing more trust in our department heads maybe and if it will put too much of a burden on you.”

Selectman Nick Williams said the gift policy should ensure there is transparency about every dollar given to the town.

“The problem is we have too many special funds,” Williams said. “One of the things this fund will hopefully do is roll some of these funds up.”

Mallozzi said the policy could be redrafted to preserve the ability of town department heads to maintain special funds used to support town services, such as donations to police to support a K-9 officer. However, the policy should stipulate that departments need Board of Selectmen approval before establishing accounts to collect funds for specific purposes, he said.

The policy will likely be amended and taken up at the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Aug. 18.