Franklin Countys First News

Residents approve fire station/town office construction project

A packed room at the Masonic Lodge overwhelmingly approved constructing a new town office/fire station at the site of the present town office Tuesday evening.

NEW SHARON - More than 100 residents overwhelmingly approved funding the construction of a new town office and fire station at Tuesday's special town meeting.

Despite the snowy conditions, it was standing room only in the Franklin Masonic Lodge #123. After approximately an hour of discussion, residents voted 106 to 13 to borrow up to $982,400 and utilize other funds to construct a new structure at the site of the present town office. That building, which will make use of some of the existing foundation, will include bays for the New Sharon Fire Department's four engines, as well as space for town office functions. It will replace the existing fire station on Main Street, which residents approved for sale after the new building is constructed, as well as office space that town officials say suffers from leaks and significant mold issues.

"It is an unhealthy building," Town Clerk Pamela Adams said, after being asked about the conditions inside the town office. "I think it's an unsafe building."

Currently, Selectman Travis Pond noted, the town was $5,000 over budget for office maintenance. Without adequate funding to repair the roof, town officials were forced to cover portions of the office overnight. While air quality tests had cleared the structure for use, officials said there was an ever-present odor they associated with mold, an issue that has been ongoing for years.

"We're playing with fire right now," Pond said, regarding the building.

While a burst pipe in October connected to a furnace issue provided a recent reminder about the building's ongoing problems, a committee of residents, the Board of Selectmen and engineer Albert Hodsdon have been meeting for some time on the issue. Discussions regarding a replacement for the fire station have been going far longer; Fire Chief John Welch said that Tuesday's vote was the latest step in a 30-year process to relocate the station.

"It's going to work great for us," Welch said of the proposed structure, responding to a question.

Hodsdon said that an examination of the foundation found much of it in good shape that could be reused for the town office portion of the structure. A new floor would be poured for the fire station bays. There would be no basement and the entire building would be on one floor. Asbestos still inside the building, particularly around the boiler, would be removed as part of the construction process.

Planners considered preserving some of the above-ground structure but rejected that idea after determining that a complete tear down and rebuild would be both months faster and more than $150,000 cheaper. A preliminary floor plan for the building was distributed in advance of the meeting but selectmen said that the design had not been finalized.

Construction was estimated to take roughly 7.5 months. Residents provided their approval to have the board negotiate a rental agreement with the nearby New Sharon Congregational Church to provide space for town office functions while that process was ongoing. Use of an existing town facility, such as the library, was rejected due to that building not being handicapped accessible.

The plan calls for a separate driveway for firefighters and equipment. A number of questions concerned the local traffic pattern and the nearby ball field; planners have suggested erecting a fence to separate the field from the building and using signage to differentiate between the fire station and general public access points.

The estimated cost of the project is $1.37 million. Tuesday's vote approved using $200,000 from the Fire Station Reserve Account, $66,000 from the miscellaneous general fund, $25,000 from the dump closure account and $100,000 from the town's general account to help meet that cost; the remainder would be borrowed.

That amount, not to exceed $982,400, would be financed through an interim 12-month construction loan, followed by a 3.45 percent fixed interest rate loan for 10 years. At the end of the 10-year term, the board would further be authorized to renegotiate the note to extend it by 5 or 10 years. At the estimated interest rate, the $982,400 is expected to generate $277,403 in interest over a 15-year period.

Town Treasurer Erin Norton estimated the mil rate impact of the construction for those at the town meeting. Assuming no other changes to the municipal, county and school rates, the project would result in an extra $30 in taxes due on $100,000 of property valuation for the first year - increasing from $1,650 to $1,680 - followed by an extra $80 per $100,000 of valuation from 2021-2029.

Residents voted to address the main article by secret ballot. After the results were read out loud by moderator Denis Culley, applause filled the room.

A preliminary plan for the reconstructed town office with the fire station addition.

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4 Responses »

  1. Be very proud New Sharon, and congratulations on your step in to the future.

  2. Be proud, New Sharon, and enjoy your new Farmington-like property taxes!

  3. could not attend due to the weather. who got the contract to construct the new driveways and the building? why would the town have to renegotiate the loan after 10 years, will it not be paid off? is the mil rate increase only for the interest payments?

  4. Congratulations New Sharon residents on a well run and civil meeting. Anyone with questions or concerns was allowed to speak and have their questions answered.
    This is long overdue the current structure is in rough shape
    I was pleased to hear that priority will be given to using local contractors.