WOLFEBORO — Voters on Tuesday narrowly approved a $4 million warrant article to fund a reduced scope renovation plan of the 124-year-old town hall.
It was the third time voters have been asked in recent years to renovate the decaying town hall — also known as Brewster Memorial Hall — that it had purchased in 2004 for $1 from the John Brewster Trust.
The warrant article required a three-fifths vote, passed by 44 votes, with a total of 1,080 yes votes, to 646 no votes, or a 62.5 percent majority.
Town Manager David Owen, who has worked with the board of selectmen on two prior warrant articles asking for renovation funding, said voters this time were likely swayed by the $750,000 in private donations raised by the Friends of Wolfeboro Town Hall.
“I think the fact the Friends raised $750,000 in private donations, and that accepting the funds was dependent upon the warrant article passing, made a difference. If the voters didn’t approve the article, they would say goodbye to $750,000 in free money to apply towards something that needs to be done in the worst way,” said Owen on Wednesday. Reaction among town hall employees the morning after voting day was “jubilant,” especially among the veteran employees who had worked in the old building for many years.
“Everybody was jubilant this morning, very happy,” said Owen, who, as a former town manager in Burlington, Mass., and other communities, has overseen numerous municipal renovation and/or new building projects.
The amount of the bond will be $3,888,600, with funding from the town hall’s existing capital reserve account, $111,440, and the Friends donation of $750,000, all applied to the project.
Owen said there is much planning to be done before town hall workers actually pack up and move to interim town offices at the Huggins Hospital complex. A $50,000 warrant article to cover costs to set up those interim offices was also approved, 1,152 to 545.
Voters approved all other funding requests for town projects. Those include: Middleton Road construction, $1,350,000; Winnipesaukee Drive reconstruction, $1,122,000; annual road upgrades, $625,000; wastewater treatment plant improvements, $250,000; annual sidewalk upgrades, $100,000; Department of Public Works facility upgrades, $160,000, electric department digger/Derrick truck replacement, $200,000, and funds for capital reserve accounts including fire trucks and apparatus replacement, $176,000; public works vehicle and equipment, $165,000, and the Abenaki Ski Area Capital Reserve account, $15,000, and the town office facility capital reserve account, $100,000, and the town’s operating budget of $24,526,600, a 2.93 percent increase over last year.