Monkton town offices put on hold after vote

MONKTON — Monkton officials gunning for the construction of a new town hall and community center are regrouping after Monkton voters on Town Meeting Day narrowly defeated a $1.4 million bond to fund the proposed municipal building.
Voters defeated a proposed bond, 226 to 193.
Though the proposed bond did not win voters’ approval, chair of the Municipal Building Committee John Phillips said the committee was actually encouraged by the outcome of the vote.
“Given the economic situation, it was pretty close,” said Phillips, who also sits on the town selectboard.
Now, Phillips said, the committee will regroup, and hopes to bring another bond proposal to the town in the next few months, possibly as early as the Sept. 14 statewide primary election.
The bond proposal came after years of fits and starts for the proposed town hall. Monkton first acquired land on Monkton Ridge with an eye toward building new offices several years ago. The town had outgrown its current facility, so the selectboard formed the building committee with the charge to investigate what other towns of similar sizes had done to replace their aging municipal offices.
The committee had been doing just that for two years. But plans for the building accelerated late last summer, when Monkton planners learned about a U.S. Rural Development Agency program that could give the town access to federal stimulus funding.
Plans for the Monkton Ridge building were drawn up by Bread Loaf Corp., and unveiled to Monkton residents at a series of meetings this winter.
Phillips said that the complaints he’s heard about the proposed town hall fall into one of three categories. Some residents worry that the design is too “contemporary” for Monkton, and won’t fit in on the Ridge. Others balk at the high cost. A third group questions whether this is the right time for Monkton to forge ahead with a costly building project.
After meeting with the selectboard on Monday, the building committee is looking for ways to cut costs, and will be searching for more grant opportunities to chip away at the total price tag.
On the design front, Phillips said perceptions that the proposed building is too “modern” might be based on the stylized renditions of the building. He said the committee is going to do everything possible to make sure that the building would fit with Monkton’s aesthetic sensibilities, and pointed out that some modern looks are inevitable if the town wants to build the most energy-efficient office possible.
Finally, Phillips made the case that now is the right time for Monkton to dive into the construction project.
“Every year that passes, it’s more and more difficult to operate efficiently out of our present location,” Phillips said. “We’re just stepping all over each other.”
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].

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