I n a modern version of an old-time barn raising, community members in Hampton have come together over the last three months to erect a new town hall without burdening the rural community with any debt.
Around two dozen volunteers have pitched in to construct the new municipal building, a 1,460-square-foot building on the eastbound side of Route 22, which opened earlier this month.
“It has been a real experience,” said supervisor Dave O’Brien. “I’m amazed by what the community could do when they worked together. We did this on a shoestring budget; it’s been fantastic.”
The previous town hall, a nearly century-old structure located where the new building now stands, was beginning to show its age and was no longer adequate for the needs of the community.
The building had slipped off its foundation, lacked adequate storage space and the heating and cooling systems were inadequate.
Recognizing the need, town officials began putting the money from sales tax receipts aside to address the problems. After seven years of saving, the community had $75,000, a nice amount of money, but under most situations, not enough to erect a new building without either taking on debt or raising taxes, neither of which were options.
But the town promised to supply volunteer labor, which helped reduce the cost of wages on the project.
The town also received favorable bids from local contractors: Garrick Construction, Filer Electric, and Williams Excavating, Plumbing and Heating.
“They did a lot at a much-reduced cost. Their feeling was that they live in the town and wanted to make contributions to the town,” O’Brien said.
The total of cost of the project is expected to be around $82,000. The structure would have cost between $250,000 and $300,000 without volunteer labor, O’Brien estimates. That represents nearly the entire operating budget for the town based on its 2013 fiscal budget.
“We found a way to get the jobs done with the money we had,” he said.
O’Brien said about 20 community members volunteered their time, including four or five who were there on a regular basis.
A half-dozen convicts from Washington County’s alternative sentencing program for nonviolent criminals contributed to the project as well.
“They were real lifesavers,” O’Brien said. “They had some construction skills some of us didn’t have. It was a real blessing to have people with those skills.”
He estimates the town received a few hundred hours of volunteer labor from alternative sentencing participants and between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of volunteer labor total.
A slate roof, slate counter tops, a chandelier, ridge cap and even copper nails were donated by a dozen local businesses.
The exterior of the building is complete, other than some landscaping that will be completed next spring. A vinyl floor and some trim work will wrap up the interior of the building and should be finished in the next few weeks.
Tongue and groove wainscoting and a pair of slate “Town Hall” signs from the old town board have been worked into the building’s design.
Last week’s elections were held in the new town hall and the next board meeting on Nov. 21 will be held in the building’s meeting room.
But the building will be familiar to the many residents who lent a helping hand during its construction.
“It’s amazing the amount of help you receive when people know there’s help to be had,” O’Brien said.