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It was good to see the large turnout for the Town Office public forum on December 11. So many questions and so many ideas! Too bad there hadn't been more of these before offering only two choices. Seems like the cost of both projects, the Methodist Church or the Farm Stand site, is a little overwhelming for most folks. Of course, these amounts,$2.4 million for the church and $1.7 million for the Farm Stand, still appear to be "guesstimates." The town office has certainly outgrown its present location and more space is needed, but at what cost?
There were numerous suggestions to use existing vacant properties. Neil Johnson presented several of these, one option being the former Troll Shop at Bragg Hill and Route100. I spoke with Kathleen at Dion Realtors and this property has a commercial building with an adjacent 30-foot-by-42-foot barn on 1.09 acres. There is ample parking, both front and rear of the building. The building has 3,556 square feet. The existing town office space is 1,750 square feet.
The proposed building for the Farm Stand site is 4,390 square feet, but there is approximately 1,500 square feet on the second story that is unusable as office space because of the elevator, two stairways and the walk-around area. This results in approximately 2,900 functional square feet (In contrast, the church property would be 5,800 square feet!).
The asking price is $335,000 (assessed value is $410,000). Even if it took an additional $400,000 or so to renovate, the town could save $1 million or more. Kathleen said she would gladly show the property to anyone who would like to see it. This is just one example of what is out there.
I know the task force wants the new town office to be located in the village, but this property is only one mile from Bridge Street. It might be worth taking a look at. As far as "saving" the Methodist Church, perhaps this is not the right time. In her December 6 editorial, Lisa Loomis stated that "private property owners are eligible for tax credits for historic preservation. Is not the upkeep of privately owned property the responsibility of the landowner?"
Reflecting on Paul Hartshorn's' concern about the town's purchase of the Birke Studio property, citing that this would take the land off the grand list, then what would the purchase of the Flemer property do to the grand list?! The talk is that this is prime real estate, so let someone buy it and let the town profit from the taxes. We have numerous expensive projects before us for the infrastructure of our town. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to fund these without being up to our eyeballs in debt?
Larry Corthell lives in Waitsfield.