SHOREHAM — Shoreham residents at their March 5 town meeting will be asked to finally resolve a longstanding debate on how to improve their municipal offices. Specifically, residents will vote on whether to spend $450,000 for a new, larger office building that would be located near the current one on the town common.
Shoreham’s 20-feet-by-30-feet town office building was erected more than a half-century ago to accommodate one worker with a phone and a typewriter. But new responsibilities assigned to municipal government in recent years have increased use of the 600-square-foot Shoreham offices, which is running out of elbow room, vault space and meeting space.
Local officials have acknowledged the building’s shortcomings and have convinced townspeople in recent years to salt away funds for eventual expansion or replacement of the structure. With that in mind, the selectboard on March 5 will be asking townspeople to use the $290,00 that has accrued in the “new town office reserve fund” and add another $160,000 that voters will be asked to float through a five-year loan.
The resulting $450,000 would be used to build a new municipal building — approximately 2,000 square feet in size — on a portion of the town green near School Street.
Shoreham selectboard Chairman Paul Saenger stressed that specific details of the plan are still being worked out.
“We have hired an architect to give us elevations and a floor plan,” Saenger said.
The floor plan, Saenger said, will reflect a basic one-story building that will include more space for meetings, employees and vault capacity. Officials are still unsure whether the structure would include an attic or basement for storage, and they are open to the concept of a modular building, if such a facility meets space and construction requirements.
Saenger noted the new location would still allow for connections to municipal water and sewer. He added the spot is also compatible with a vision outlined for the town commons by a local task force. Saenger hopes construction — which he anticipates could happen this year pending a positive vote — is not complicated by drainage issues.
“That end of the commons is a wet area,” he said.
Shoreham residents in December of 2010 rejected two separate proposals for upgrading their town offices. One called for spending $556,000 on a new, 2,128-square-foot municipal building with a community meeting room, on land behind the current town offices. The second option called for building a reproduction of the former Newton Academy, a 200-year-old structure on School Street that was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. Restoring the 5,130-square-foot, two-story building would have cost around $1,070,000 and offered not only town office space but also a full kitchen, meeting room, stage and an auditorium.
But voters ultimately opted for “none of the above,” sending the selectboard back to the drawing board.
Asked if he believed $450,00 would be adequate to erect a new office building, Saenger pointed to the recently completed, 1,600-sqaure-foot addition to the town library that was done within a $425,000 budget.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.