The people of Hampton have spoken and their message was clear: don’t spend a lot of money on the existing town hall.
More than 25 people attended a public hearing last week to voice their opinions on the future of the town hall and while what they had to say varied, the general consensus was the current building should not be the future building.
“I think it would be better to tear this building down and start fresh. We’re going to have to spend a lot of money either way. If we put up a new building at least we won’t have to deal with someone else’s headaches,” said Nate Saxton, deputy highway superintendent for Hampton.
Joe Panoushek was also in favor of new construction. “I think we’re better off building our own building,” he said.
“It wouldn’t be a big burden to the town if we drag it out over a four-year period,”
said Supervisor Dave O’Brien, but the challenge is finding the right location. “I’d prefer this location. I don’t want to get buried on some back road.”
“We need a simple, functional building that meets our needs today, 20 and 50 years from now,” O’Brien said.
Other options that were discussed include the purchase of an existing building or consolidation with the fire department.
One suggestion that garnered some support from those in attendance was the old Hampton House, which has ample parking, a central location and is believed to be for sale, but as some pointed out, purchasing a privately owned building could affect the tax roll.
“I’m not in favor of taking a taxable property off the tax rolls,” Panoushek said.
There was also some support for moving into the Hampton Fire Department but Chief Joe Mead said the building was too small to house a post office, town offices, and still function as the firehouse.
He did however, suggest that the town could take back the building and the department could build a new firehouse.
He said the department is starting to outgrow the building as it is and because the department is a private company, it could build a structure for less money because they wouldn’t have to pay prevailing wages.
O’Brien said the town has $75,000 in its building fund and has the option to take on municipal bonds to cover additional costs if it so choose.
The current building, a small, one-story structure located on the southbound side of Route 22A adjacent the highway garage, is beginning to show its age and has a lengthy list of problems, perhaps none bigger than the foundation.
O’Brien said the foundation is sinking in the rear of the building, causing the floors to slope away from the front entrance.
Initial estimates put the price to raise the building and repair the foundation anywhere from $35,000 to $45,000 and the cost could rise substantially if other problems are discovered when the building is raised.
“The beams underneath are a wild-card. There are lots of unknowns,” O’Brien said.
The building also needs new sills and clapboards, repairs to the roof, a paint job, improved security and storage, better exterior lighting, and the heating system needs to be evaluated.
Renovating the building could also open it to a number of code enforcement issues.
No definitive cost estimates are available but the board is expected to explore its options and look more closely at the costs.
Once the board members have a developed a plan they will host public hearings to allow for more public input.