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New Haven to vote on town office project

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By CYRUS LEVESQUE

NEW HAVEN — After several years of planning, and a few false starts, a new town hall may be in store for New Haven. On July 1, town residents will vote on a proposal to float a $594,000 bond for new town offices and a library. A special town meeting is scheduled for June 30 at 7 p.m. in the town hall to discuss the bond proposal with a vote by Australian ballot on the next day.

If the bond passes, the new community building would be built on the site of the Dana-King House. The historic King House, which now neighbors the town hall on North Street, was sold to New Haven resident Tim Goyette on May 6 for $500 with the condition that the house be moved off the site.

Building a new community center will be less expensive than renovating the King House to make it suitable for a modern office, according to New Haven resident Jerry Smiley, who designed previous plans for the King House and the current plans for the new offices.

“Rehabilitating the King House was a major expenditure, and a lot of people in town didn’t want to do anything with it,” Smiley said.

All told, the proposed new town office would cost about $794,000, but the bond is $200,000 less because of money available in the town’s facilities fund. According to Selectman Keith Hall, the facilities fund at the end of 2006 had $212,939.29 in it, and the town appropriated an additional $65,000 at the 2007 town meeting.

Town officials have long argued that they need to improve the conditions of the town buildings. The current town offices are in a small set of rooms under the town hall, but they have become cramped in recent years, especially as reporting and record-keeping requirements have grown.

The new building will also offer more space for town employees. At about 3,450 square feet, Hall estimated that the proposed offices would be at least twice as big as the current space.

The building plans include three separate offices, which would be used by the zoning administrator, lister, treasurer and assistant treasurer. The records vault planned for the proposed offices would be 301 square feet, about three times the space of the current vault.

The building also includes an 889-square-foot library. The town’s library is now kept in the basement rooms of Beeman Elementary School, and town officials say they have long wanted a larger, airier space for it.

The offices would have radiant heating, and architect Peter Morris said that heating the building would require very little fuel. Most of the building would use geothermal heating and cooling, Morris said. There is already a 550-foot-deep well on the site. Morris said that by digging two more wells, water could circulate underground, cooling the building in the summer and heating it in the winter.

“The operating expenses, then, are really quite modest,” Morris said. “It’s going to be a really comfortable building.”

FATE OF THE KING HOUSE

Plans for the King House have changed several times since New Haven bought the historic house in 2000, hoping that it might be used for expanded town office space.

Two proposals to renovate the building and use it as town offices and a library were defeated when put to votes in 2004 and 2006. Town officials have said that the cost was probably a major reason the town voted those plans down; both proposals involved floating bonds for about $1.3 million.

In 2007, New Haven residents Raymond and Deborah Fortier expressed an interest in buying the house and moving it to their property just up North Street, and in May 2007 the town voted, 208-40, to sell it to them for a dollar.

However, the house stayed through the end of 2007. The Fortiers said that red tape and scheduling problems with their chosen contractor delayed their plans to move the house, so the deal wasn’t finalized before the end of 2007. At the 2008 town meeting, New Haven residents voted 563-92 to rescind the previous decision and instead sell the house to the highest bidder.

That highest bid turned out to be $500, made by Goyette, who had expressed an interest in the house as early as January 2008, according to selectboard meeting minutes. Goyette is now preparing to move the house to property he owns on South Street. He expects to move it around the middle of July, he said.

Goyette said he decided relatively quickly to buy the house when he learned it would be available to the highest bidder. “It was one of those spur-of-the-moment things,” he said. He plans to renovate and restore it over a couple years for use by his family. “It was a beautiful home.”

ZONING CHANGE PROPOSED

In addition to the bond proposal for the town offices, New Haven residents will also consider a request to amend the future land use map at the meeting on June 30 and vote on that amendment July 1. Steve and Marcia Dupoise made a proposal to change about 20 acres of land they own on Route 7 from the Rural Agricultural zone to Highway Commercial.

The 20 acres are part of a 30-acre parcel west of Route 7 and south of Belden Falls Road. The southern part of that land is the site of the Dupoises’ business, Ethan Allen Highway Storage. If the town approves the proposal, Steve Dupoise has said he plans to sell a five-acre plot at the corner of Route 7 and Belden Falls Road to Town and Country Homes, a Vergennes-based manufactured homes dealer, while the rest of the land would be available for future development.

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