Shoreham residents to determine the future of town offices on Dec. 7

SHOREHAM — Shoreham voters will got to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7, to pick one of two possible makeovers for their town offices — or decide not to make any changes at all.
Around 100 residents gathered on Monday, Nov. 29, to hear presentations on two options for replacing the current 20-foot-by-30-foot municipal office building on the town commons. The current offices were built in 1962 as a one-person set-up with one typewriter and one phone.
The two options include:
• Erecting a new 2,128-square-foot office building, with community meeting room, on land behind the current structure, which would be removed. The new building would comfortably accommodate the town clerk and treasurer, a 300-square-foot vault, an office for listers, and working space for the auditors, planning commission and zoning administrator, according to an informational flyer sent by the selectboard to local homes.
This option also includes a multi-purpose room for board meetings, voting and community use.
Estimated cost of the plan: $556,000, a sum town officials said would be defrayed by a combined total of $381,504 in insurance proceeds from the Newton Academy fire and funds that have been accumulating in a municipal office savings account that voters have been building for the past several years. That would leave a balance of $174,496 for taxpayers to cover, which would translate into an extra $28.17 in property taxes annually for a homestead valued at $100,000 over the life of a five-year bond, or $9.03 annually over then life of a 20-year bond.
• Building a reproduction of the former Newton Academy that was destroyed by a lightening strike last April, just as a local group was making headway in restoring the 200-year-old structure into a community center.
The 5,130-square-foot, two-story building would offer the town offices the same space allowance (on the first floor) as option one. The second floor would include a full kitchen, meeting room, stage and an auditorium that would be used for community events and rented out for private functions.
Estimated cost for the Newton Academy rebuild: $1,070,000, an amount that officials said would be lessened by a combined total of $601,801. Those savings are derived from Newton Academy insurance funds; the municipal office savings account; Newton Academy Restoration Association funds; and state and federal grants that had been earmarked for the academy restoration but can now be rededicated to the rebuild.
This would leave $469,199 for the town to absorb, which would add $41.12 in property taxes annually to a homestead valued at $100,000 over the life of 10-year bond, or $24.84 annually over the life of a 20-year bond.
Voters will also be presented with a third option — to do nothing at all.
Selectboard Chairman Paul Saenger said advocates for all three scenarios spoke up at Monday’s meeting. Boosters of the smaller project — which included some current and former town staff — called it a good compromise that would fit the town’s basic needs at a reasonable price.
Advocates for the Newton Academy rebuild said the more ambitious project would be a wise investment in a town asset that could cater to all segments of the community — senior groups, youth groups, theater enthusiasts and civic organizations.
Sue MacIntire, president of the Newton Academy Restoration Corp., said the Newton Academy rebuild would also provide the community with a town hall.
“I think it could be something that would be enjoyed for generations to come,” MacIntire said. “It’s something people in Shoreham will hopefully use for another 200 years.”
The selectboard is not advocating for any specific option, noted Saenger, who is hoping for a good turnout on Dec. 7. Voting will take place at the community firehouse from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Since there are people who are passionate about each of the three options, I am sure they see to it that the vote is gotten out,” Saenger said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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