Shoreham to vote on future of buildings

SHOREHAM — Shoreham voters will soon get a chance to decide whether the town should build new municipal offices or incorporate them into a Newton Academy re-build that would also include a community center.
Plans call for the Shoreham selectboard to prepare a list of three options to address the town’s quest for more municipal office space and to potentially fill the void left by the April 7 burning of historic Newton Academy on School Street.
Those options, according to Shoreham selectboard Chairman Paul Saenger, will include:
• Building a new, 2,000-square-foot municipal office building near the site of the current undersized town clerk’s office on the village green. Local taxpayers, at the selectboard’s request, have been gradually stoking a fund (which now stands at more than $100,000) to help build a new, larger structure.
• Erecting a new version of Newton Academy at the very location at which that historic 1810 building stood until it burned following an April 7 lightning strike. The new building would house municipal offices on the first floor and a community center with a kitchen and auditorium on the second floor, Saenger said.
• Doing nothing.
An architect is currently working out specifics for the building options. Local officials want to have the necessary cost estimates and building designs in place in time to present the three options for a vote on either the Aug. 24 primary ballot or on the Nov. 2 general election ballot.
“We would certainly want one, if not a couple of public hearings, before having a ballot item,” Saenger said.
Upcoming public hearings will provide residents with a lot of food for thought on both building scenarios.
Those favoring the more basic direction of erecting new municipal offices anticipate a large chunk of the new structure could be covered by the more than $100,000 already salted away for the job, combined with insurance money derived from the Newton Academy loss.
Citizens advocating for a “new” Newton Academy also cite some financial benefits. Newton Academy Restoration Corp. member Sue MacIntire said there is $190,000 in grant money still in play from the ill-fated effort to renovate the 1810 building. She said $75,000 of that grant money would have to be paid back if Shoreham elects to abandon its pursuit of Newton Academy. MacIntire said she’s been told that the remaining $115,000 in grant funds could be sunk into a new Newton Academy. MacIntire believes that $115,000, combined with insurance money, should be sunk into a new structure that would not only address town office needs, but also produce a community center and structure that would commemorate the former academy building.
MacIntire had hoped the town would conduct a survey to determine the preferred building scenario. She and her late husband, Wilson, had spent five years seeking grants to renovate Newton Academy. MacIntire said she is willing to apply for additional grants to help rebuild the structure, but would not want to embark on such a labor-intensive effort if the majority of townspeople are content with a small municipal office building.
MacIntire and other Newton Academy boosters will get their answer in August or November.
“I’m really happy that people will get a choice,” MacIntire said of the upcoming vote.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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