• Thu. Jun 23rd, 2022

Townsend residents reject plan to build new town hall

ByDebra J. Aguilar

May 27, 2022

TOWNSEND — On May 14, townspeople overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to build a new town hall for $1.9 million, reportedly because it didn’t include a new fire station.

City President Carla Van Camp blamed the loss on firefighters and her supporters who “overwhelmed” the special city meeting.

“Firefighters want a new fire department. They think it’s more important than an almost doomed town hall,” Van Camp said.

Fire Chief Dawn Herlache said her department had no role in overturning the measure, which failed 70-125 (with three abstentions).

Many residents, she explained, have wondered why a new fire department couldn’t be included in the $1.9 million plan, which is expected to add $35 to property taxes on a 100 home. $000.

“My personal opinion is that I think the main reason it didn’t pass was that a lot of people didn’t feel like they were getting a good explanation of what that $1.9 million covered. completely,” she said.

The proposed structure would have provided more office space, a kitchen with pop-up service windows, and storage space for tables and chairs. It would also have approximately 200 square feet of additional space for community activities compared to the current facility.

Van Camp said the current building is used for a variety of events — family reunions, blood drives, classes, funerals — more than 200 times a year, she said.

“It’s a busy town hall,” Van Camp said.

However, she said the pole building built over 50 years ago “is falling apart”.

The building is poorly insulated, the electrical system is not up to code, the floors are in poor condition, and there are signs of mold in the attic and walls, she said. The septic system has been condemned and cannot be replaced.

Van Camp said the city council and a group of community residents began planning a new building about 4½ years ago, but it was delayed until about a year ago due to the pandemic.

Town residents John and Monica Zeller noted that the project’s original budget was $1.57 million, but residents said that didn’t include many costs, such as signage, landscaping, site utilities and others.

In a letter, the Zellers said the council responded by increasing the proposal to $1.9 million, though they maintained the city had not determined whether it was just a guess. or a realistic figure.

“It has been mentioned that our fire department building also needs repairs and when will residents be asked to fund this construction project?” they asked in a letter. “Shouldn’t we incorporate all of our municipal buildings into a facilities master plan that would give residents a clear picture of our pending needs?” »

In a letter read to voters ahead of the vote, City resident Kathleen Marsh said she had seen Zellers’ letter and agreed with it and another letter on the subject published by a regional newspaper.

Yet the current town hall is in too bad shape not to go ahead with the project, she added.

“If we vote no today, this building will burn, explode, collapse or be condemned and demolished. And then what are we going to do? Marsh asked.

Herlache said she asked if a new fire department was being considered during one of the first planning meetings for the new city hall. She said she was told there wasn’t enough room for the two at the site, on nearby property already owned by the city.

The current fire department building needs maintenance, she said. Located in a separate building just north of City Hall, it received a $195,000 addition in 2006, which provided room for trucks and training.

“He’s not collapsing in any way,” Herlache said. “We don’t need to have a new fire department right now, but some people think if you’re going to spend that much money why not take care of both at the same time?”

Van Camp said the new site does not have direct freeway access like the current site. If the new hall had been approved, she said, the fire department would be able to gain access to the existing town hall property, which it could have used for the annual Fourth of July events it organizes as a fundraiser. of funds.

She expected the issue to be dismissed when she opened the special meeting for discussion, and noted that a local company had even made t-shirts opposing the project.

“We’ll see where it leads,” Van Camp said. “We have a few options.”

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Contact Kent Tempus at (920) 431-8226 or ktempus@gannett.com.