NEWFANE >> Local officials say the time has come to do something about Town Offices.
"It's like throwing money into a rat hole," Select Board Vice Chairwoman Carol Hatcher said during a meeting on June 20. "We could probably save money over the long run buying a new building."
A vote, which will ask residents whether to take out a bond in the amount of $950,000, is scheduled for Aug. 9. A public hearing will be scheduled at least 10 days before the vote.
Newfane Administrative Assistant Shannon Meckle told the Reformer that an additional question on the Australian ballot will see if an unused $35,000 from a bond issued for bridge construction can be put toward the project.
"Mold is growing on some of our really old land records. A lot of that is because the vault is not temperature or moisture controlled and it really should be," said Meckle. "(The office) is also out of room. You can't just add on to a vault."
She said her file cabinets are "creeping out" of her cubicle at this point.
Currently, there is no privacy in the building. An open room is shared by Meckle, the town clerk, treasurer and listers. These officials need to have conversations dealing with personnel issues, delinquent tax bills and drug-test results.
"They're crammed into this tiny little office," said Meckle, who will move chats to the Town Garage in Williamsville. "Nobody should have to work that way. It's not a fun place to have to work. Between air quality issues and privacy, it's frustrating."
The new building is expected to cost about $975,000 and meet the needs of the town for 50 or more years.
"The property next door has been for sale for quite some time so the idea was to sell this building to WW (Building Supply) because he needs more land to expand," said Meckle. "And so, I think, the price is pretty much a wash,"
Space in the new office would nearly double, going from about 2,500 square feet to 4,000. A bond payment would continue through 2048 and the amounts owed would decrease over time, according to a document provided by the town in which the new construction project was compared to renovations of the existing building.
"We cannot anticipate costs to the existing building but will need to budget an amount for emergency maintenance," the document said. "We can, however, allot funds for deferred maintenance and budget capital improvement projects based on necessity. The renovation/addition could be implemented through yearly additions to the Capital Fund, which would cost taxpayers about the same as a bond payment."
A new building would mean the town "will not need to put money in the Capital Fund for repairs for many years," another informational sheet said.
"As the cost of repairs rises, more money will need to be put into the Capital Fund to maintain the old building. The bond payments will remain level," the document stated.
Another noted feature of a new building was the "freedom to design adequate space" to store records, equipment and offices. A second vault could be added to the office. Also, rooms could be arranged in a way that meets the needs of the public seeking different services.
According to a feasibility study conducted by Cotton Design Associates, the cost to improve the current office and put an addition on is estimated to be about $416,088.
Roofer Steve Marazof investigated the building and recommended re-roofing the building with asphalt shingles within the next five years.
The study indicated that some clapboards on the front of the building have rotted and need to be replaced, and the building should be tested for lead paint and scraped if present.
"The building is in desperate need of painting and should be primed and painted with a quality exterior paint," the study said.
The windows and foundation were in good condition, according to the study, but interior window trim should be removed and gaps should be filled with spray foam insulation to address breezes coming through the building.
The facility could be heated in a more efficient way, according to Jewett Plumbing and Heating. The business suggested contacting the manufacturer of the furnace to see whether the power of the blower could be increased to deliver a greater air flow. A new programmable thermostat could be installed that would be easier to use and more accurate. More return-air vents also were recommended.
If an addition to the building was proposed, the town was advised to switch to a more energy-efficient oil-fired hot-water boiler system or use electric heat pumps that could provide heating and air conditioning. A new system might cost about $38,750, according to town documents.
Other insulation improvements could cost about $18,000. New and needed electrical outlets were said to cost about $5,000. Jewett also suggested cleaning the existing air ducts, changing the filters more than once a year and covering the grates to the chimney in the office's main room.
To meet ADA requirements, it was recommended to install a railing and ramp on the side of the building.
"The corridor from the rear entrance is too narrow to allow a wheelchair to make a right-angle turn and would need to be enlarged," the study said.
To make bathrooms more accessible, additional turning space would be needed. The existing staircase to the second floor is too narrow and steep to meet ADA codes, the study said. Carpeting in the listers' office should be removed and hard wood floors restored.
Board member Marion Dowling said architect David Cotton had worked "very hard" and was paid by the town to develop proposals. A committee of citizens also was formed to look into projects and recommended going to a bond.
Currently, the town budgets about $30,000 for the annual upkeep of the building. Board member Gary Delius said $103,000 has been spent on maintenance of the facility since 2011 and besides new windows, not much of the work is visible.
"We'd be proud to see the town build a new Town Hall," said Delius, making a motion to schedule the bond vote. "I think it would be a benefit to all the citizens and especially to the staff that works here that works here and works for the benefit of every taxpayer."
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.