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Town offices: new building vs. renovation

Consultant to analyze pros and cons of two options for addressing town government needs

NEWFANE—“I know there’s history here,” David Cotton told the Selectboard at its Oct. 19 meeting.

Cotton was referring to the Town Offices building, a 75-year-old structure whose renovation needs are so great that town officials are considering selling it and constructing a new building in a nearby lot.

For many years, town officials, including the former Building Committee, have addressed a number of deficiencies in the building, including heating, air quality, energy efficiency, ADA compliance, roofing problems, and a lack of privacy often required in official town business.

So far, the town has dealt with the issues piecemeal, but board members recently decided to try a new approach.

Cotton, of Cotton Design Associates, has been hired by the town to “put together a comprehensive plan for new building vs. renovation of the current building with cost estimates. That way we can present this plan to the voters and let them make an informed decision,” Administrative Assistant Shannon Meckle told The Commons in an email.

During the board meeting, Cotton discussed some of the pros and cons of building new, or renovating the current home of the Town Offices.

“The advantage of building brand-new is, everything is brand-new — the heating system, everything is [ADA]-compliant, everything is good,” Cotton said.

He suggested board members ask themselves, “What are we going to get into, fixing this 75-year-old building? What is it going to cost?”

But he warned board members against counting their proverbial chickens too soon.

One important consideration, Cotton said: Is someone really interested in buying the Town Offices building?

Cotton suggested reinstating the Building Committee for the project. Board member Dennis Wiswall, who served on the committee prior to his appointment to the Selectboard, agreed to again be part of the Building Committee.

Former member Gunther Garbe, Meckle, and Selectboard member Carol Hatcher will also join the new committee. One more member is needed, and Selectboard Chair Todd Lawley said an unnamed individual expressed interest.

Wiswall suggested the board consider obtaining a bond to pay for the entire project rather than continue with individual repairs. Interest rates are low, he told his colleagues.

“Here, it’s like you’ve been doing: you put $20,000 into this, next year you put in $25,000,” Cotton said. “When is it going to stop?”

“Gunther and I were on the Building Committee, and we’ve worked so hard, and there’s still so much to do,” Wiswall said.

“Get a bond and do them all,” Board member Mike Fitzpatrick suggested.

Cotton said that his firm will complete the study and have a written report for the town within a month.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #331 (Wednesday, November 11, 2015). This story appeared on page D2.

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