Shoreham town office vote to be held Dec. 7

MIDDLEBURY — Shoreham voters on Dec. 7 will be asked to pick their favorite from among three options for upgrading their undersized municipal offices.
Those options, confirmed by the Shoreham selectboard, include building a new, 2,000-square-foot municipal office building on the village green; erecting a more elaborate, two-story structure at the site of the former Newton Academy on School Street; or rejecting both of those options, thereby placing the issue back on the selectboard’s drawing board.
The Dec. 7 vote follows several months of study on how the town could develop more town office and vault space. Architects on Oct. 12 made a presentation of the two building options at a public meeting. Those options are:
• To build a 2,000-square-foot, single-story, stick-built structure on a slab behind the current, 600-square-foot town clerk’s office, which would then be removed. Shoreham selectboard Chairman Paul Saenger said the new building would feature a truss roof that would provide for some upper-level storage space. The building would feature around 300 square feet of vault space and enough floor area to comfortably host board meetings, which can get cramped in the current town clerk’s office.
Shoreham officials are proposing a budget of $556,000 for the new building, an amount Saenger said could be reduced by around $381,500. That $381,500, according to Saenger, represents what has accumulated in the town office and Newton Academy reserve funds, as well as an anticipated insurance settlement stemming from an April 7 lightning strike that destroyed the 1810 academy building.
Assuming the $381,500 to draw down the project costs, this would leave $174,500 for townspeople to finance.
“It may be small enough so that we will just need to borrow the money,” Saenger said about the possibility of avoiding a bond issue.
• To build a “Shoreham Town Hall” on the spot of the former Newton Academy. The new two-story building would host town offices on the first floor, while the second floor would contain an auditorium (with stage), a conference room, a kitchen, restrooms and a small dressing room. The structure would have an elevator and an unfinished basement that would have its own access and could someday be completed and used as a teen center, according to members of the Newton Academy Restoration Corp.
Estimated cost of the Shoreham Town Hall: $1,071,000. That’s an amount that selectboard members said could be lessened by at least $431,500. That amount represents the town office/Newton Academy reserve funds; insurance money; and some grants that had been promised to the academy restoration but are transferable to the new town hall plan.
Saenger believes it is likely taxpayers would have to bond for the taxpayer share of the Shoreham Town Hall project “unless a bunch more grants and money come in than we are aware of.”
Sue MacIntire, president of the Newton Academy Restoration Corp., believes there is more money available for the town hall option than the selectboard realizes.
MacIntire is also treasurer of the restoration corporation and has kept a running tally of Newton Academy finances. She estimates the town would have $594,500 to apply to the town hall option, citing recent correspondence with grantors. Moreover, MacIntire said she’s confident Shoreham could win additional funding through the Community Development Block Grant, Americans with Disabilities Act and Vermont Arts Council programs.
MacIntire believes the town would get a bigger bang for an investment in a town hall that could not only accommodate municipal offices, but also voting, various town gatherings, entertainment, adult learning programs and exercise classes. She added the town could rent out the auditorium space for wedding receptions.
“By building a community center, we would have something that could be used by all members of the town,” MacIntire said. “And a community center might even raise our property values.”
Shoreham officials will hold an informational meeting on the town office options on Monday, Nov. 29, at 7 p.m. at Shoreham Elementary School. Australian ballot voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 7, at the town firehouse.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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