The idea of taking a look at whether the People’s United Bank building in Waitsfield would be suitable for the Waitsfield town office has merit.
It needs to be given serious consideration for several reasons. It would place a vital municipal service in the heart of the town’s commercial district. It would be extremely convenient for people with business at the town office who are already stopping at the shopping center for mail and other errands.
There is ample parking. Using an existing building and existing parking would mean not creating more impervious surfaces by building a new building with a new paved parking lot.
The building has a conference room, a vault, four private offices and a large lobby that could function as a meeting room. The building is handicap accessible.
It could cost less than the current plan to spend over $1.4 million plus another $225,000 in grant money. It’s hard to imagine that purchasing the bank and fitting it up to town specs would cost $1.625 million.
To argue, as some on the select board did, that looking at the bank will require an expensive and extensive “study” seems absurd. Four people work at the current town office. Surely those four people and the select board could walk into the bank and receive the same tour of the spaces that others are receiving.
To argue, as some on the select board have, that it’s too late and it’s too bad this opportunity didn’t come up a year ago, or a year and a half ago, doesn’t make too much sense, in light of the fact that not a shovelful of dirt has been moved on plans to build the new town office at the north end of the village nor has a contract been signed.
It’s true that a great deal of time and effort and money have gone toward the efforts to build a new town office and it’s true that the office would be fitting for the town, something we can be proud of and the new building would be net zero in terms of energy usage. Those are not insignificant things.
And the issue of whether the town could retain the grant is critical. It seems likely that that would be possible, since the point of the grants is to move critical infrastructure out of the flood plain.
But surely the select board can be nimble enough in their thinking that they can avoid a dogmatic response when a new opportunity presents itself – before a shovel has hit the dirt.
The town needs to give this idea a real look before rejecting it out of hand as “too late.”