Newfane residents voice concern before vote on new town office
NEWFANE — Planning for the construction of a new town office building will continue if funding is approved by residents.
Town officials have their idea for the project as a bond vote is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 9. But residents wonder if there is room for changes once the check clears.
"We have to come back to you and ask you, 'What do you want? A or B?'" Select Board Vice Chairwoman Carol Hatcher said during an informational meeting on Aug. 1. "We're not spending the money without your approval."
The $950,000 bond is to go towards construction of a new building. Residents worried about the flexibility of the article, which makes no mention of where or what kind of facility will be built with the money.
Hatcher said the board went with a bond attorney's counsel and felt that it was good legal advice. A "yes" on the Town Office bond ballot indicates residents are "voting to authorize the Select Board to apply for funding for constructing a new town office building," according to the warning.
David Cotton, who owns the architectural firm Cotton Design Associates, said roofers, plumbers, and electricians were consulted about upgrading the existing Town Offices on Route 30 and putting an addition on for more space necessary for fitting files into the future. Then WW Building Supply talked about needing bigger office space and moving it to a dryer area. The business was flooded during Tropical Storm Irene. A property between WW and Town Offices is up for sale, and all parties showed interest in a trade-off of sorts.
A town building committee determined that Town Offices "could be right next door and a company (WW) that is probably the largest taxpayer in Newfane could buy this property and expand attractively," Cotton said inside the current town building. But, it would be back to the drawing board if WW or the other property owner were to back out.
"It's not going to be bells and whistles," said Cotton, adding that a larger meeting room also was part of the plan. "Is it the way to go? I don't know. I know there's people who feel they don't want to see this taken down."
Resident Gary Katz called the bond for construction of a new building a mistake.
"Newfane does not need a new office building. And it certainly does not need an additional $950,000 of debt. And, realistically, does anybody believe that there won't be cost overruns in any major building project? Or that other town functions will require more taxpayer support in the coming years, too?" Katz wrote in a letter to the editor. "Literally all of the people in town with whom I've spoken agree that a new building is not needed. Many highlight an emotional attachment to the existing building having attended school there in its earlier incarnation. Others focus on the history of the current building and its importance in a town where the entire village is on the National Historic Register. Others bring up equally valid economic concerns, given our aging population and the increasing number of people on fixed and limited incomes."
Others echoed those concerns at the meeting with questions on the project.
Board member Gary Delius said the bond amount was decided on because the board "can't come back and say, 'Oh, we underestimated on the cost so we're going to need more money.'"
Delayed maintenance on the existing building and the need for additional space have been cited as reasons behind the project. Upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act also would need to be considered with new construction.
"We do want to make sure what we do is accessible to all of our citizens regardless of their challenge," Delius said. "We, as transparently as possible, want everyone's input on every step of the process."
He said voters can expect to see a question about renovation of the existing building in November if the bond is not approved.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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