According to town administrator Mark Shea, the tight quarters make for less privacy for residents who need to conduct transactions or research a deed. For Shea, his office accommodates a desk and a chair, and that’s about all. “Right now we have an extremely low amount of square feet, and this is a busy place of business,” said Shea. “If someone were to meet me in my office I can accommodate one person but with group meetings like with contractors or vendors, it makes it difficult.”
The town has nailed down four locations to inquire about, as well as the idea of buying a pod from the school district, which they could locate on the school grounds, and move the departments into. The four locations include the Bullock Building on Main Street, the basement of the general store, the basement of St. Joachim’s Church on Tunnel Street, and a small area at Berard’s Excavating.
Selectboard member Helyn Strom-Henriksen, who drafted the selectboard’s letter of inquiry, says that the town is at the most preliminary point of the process, simply putting the feelers out to see where some possibilities may lie, realizing there is a dire need for space.
“Sometimes we have to hold bridge construction meetings in the gym, and there are limited times of day when you can do that,” said Strom-Henriksen. “Some meetings don’t take place on site and involve someone from the road crew, someone from the selectboard, and engineers, and you need a place to spread out plans or prints.”
Strom-Henriksen also said that the board realizes that each of the locations has its faults, including the age of the Bullock Building, the proximity of the store to the river, and the regularity of usage that St. Joachim’s parish hall space sees.
A major issue the town would face with any attempt to move town offices is the capacity of the vault. Currently, the vault is full, and very little can be done to maximize space or reorganize the books. According to town clerk and treasurer Amber Holland, the town’s land and record books have been shifted many times to try to maximize the space, but every time a book is sent out to be restored it comes back as two books. According to Holland, the treasurer and clerk’s office would have to stay with the vault, and moving the town administrator’s office as well as the clerk’s office to another location would only provide a limited amount of new space in the current office, without solving the issue of the vault.
According to Shea, an October 2006 master plan for the town cited the space of the office and the size of the vault as insufficient. Shea says that buying a pod from the school district would be an inexpensive alternative to building on the bricks and mortar of the current office, but any action taken would have to be voted on by the town taxpayers, and included in the town budget at Town Meeting.
Strom-Henriksen said that there are ways of helping to solve the problem of vault space for now, as none of the buildings the town is inquiring about have the capacity for a safe. “Other towns facing similar problems have purchased fire retardant metal cabinets, and that’s an option, but we still don’t have the space,” said Strom-Henriksen. “Right now we’re at a critical juncture to start the ball rolling, and since we can’t move the vault, option B is, what then?”
“In my opinion it would be a Band-Aid fix,” said Holland. “If we’re going to start talking about moving the town offices, the vault is part of the town office.”
In recent years the town has begun the long process of backing up its records digitally, but is still required to keep the books written on legal paper as backup.