WHITEFIELD — Whitefield residents can voice their opinions at a public hearing starting at 6 p.m. Monday to decide on a new building for town government.
Town officials have put together a proposed multi-purpose office building that would house town offices, the police department, fire and ambulance offices and, in at least one option, a multipurpose/recreation room.
It would be located two-tenths of a mile south of the Common on Route 116, adjacent to the fire station on town-owned land.
In addition to financial issues, another topic that will probably come up is the location. A couple of residents have urged selectmen to keep town offices in the center of town.
Whitefield’s old town hall was razed last July. The town considered renovating, said Edwin Betz, a member of the planning board. But there were structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental issues that would have meant a gut job. To do all of the renovation necessary, the cost was estimated at $1.89 million.
At present the town is renting space in the Astle Block at $28,000 a year. While the rental space is downtown, there are safety and liability issues, in particular “the storefront visibility and accessibility, and mixed residential use in the Block,” according to information that will be presented.
The goal of preparing the proposal was to come up with a plan that would cost about the same ($28,000/year), or less, as is being paid now. The planners intend to take advantage of the skills of people in town, including the employees of the public works department and those of “skilled local trades-people and services who take pride in Whitefield,” the project scope report states.
To keep costs as low as possible the town would act as its own general contractor, using local volunteer technical assistance to help. The town highway and water departments would do the site work, and plumbing and electrical work would be done by Whitefield contractors. Local consultants would be retained as needed to design structure, foundation, floor and roof/truss framing.
As for the building itself, the report suggests pre-manufacture of the upper office floor and roof, with local tradespeople working on the lower levels.
Two alternatives are being discussed. The first would eliminate the multipurpose-recreation facilities; the estimated cost is $750,000. The second alternative would include a walk-out multi-use room, kitchen and bathrooms on the lowest level. That is estimated at $975,000.
The project scope report includes possible funding sources that would lower the cost to taxpayers. They include state grants for pellet wood-fired boilers and the N.H. Office of Emergency Management, which funds emergency operation centers. The multi-use room could be used as a temporary shelter, with a kitchen, bathrooms and generator. A Tillotson grant up to $100,000 is another possibility. Public Service of New Hampshire offers grants for efficient electrical equipment and LED lighting.
In addition, there are capital reserve accounts for the fire and recreation departments. The town has been promised $180,000 from the sale of the Cherry Mountain land to the U.S. Forest Service.
Betz said town officials have not yet calculated the tax impact of the project. He said selectmen are waiting to hear the residents’ comments at the bond hearing.