Monkton may move town hall building

MONKTON — Officials in Monkton are taking a new look at how to solve the problem of lack of space in the town offices while also making for a roomier town library. They will discuss their plans and seek feedback at a meeting this Thursday evening.
Monkton residents at last year’s town meeting defeated a $1.4 million bond to construct an entirely new municipal building on town-owned land on Monkton Ridge. So the Municipal Building Committee is now studying the idea of picking up the town hall and moving the whole thing to the land and setting it on a new basement.
This would allow the town to expand the historic, 1,200-square-foot building, which is impossible at its present site because it is hemmed in by a cemetery, a private home, the road and a slope behind the parking lot. The fact that it is designated on the National Register of Historic Places is also a roadblock to simply adding another floor.
“We really need to expand but there’s no room to build,” said Selectman John Phillips, chairman of the building committee.
The addition of the basement could also solve another space problem by hosting the Russell Memorial Library, which sits in a tiny, 600-square-foot building in the village. Phillips said the average size for a town library in Vermont is one square foot per resident.
“The library is less than one-third the average size,” he said. “We have about 1,800 people in Monkton. It’s just way small.
“Our biggest effort now is to try and include the library in with the town hall,” Phillips added.
If the library were to move out of its current location, Phillips imagines that the post office could be relocated from the fire station into that building.
“It would be a great place for a post office,” he said.
Phillips said he thought one reason residents rejected the new building last year was they thought the design was too modern and didn’t fit in with the town’s character. In addition, that proposal left the town with an unused building. Moving the existing building and adding on in a new location could allay both those objections.
The selectboard has included a $9,000 line item in its proposed town budget to pay for a consultant to see whether historic preservation agencies would allow for the building to be moved, and to hire Arnold and Scangas of Colchester to create a conceptual design for the expanded space.
Phillips figures that it will take awhile for a final proposal to be nailed down, and he is averse to holding a special town meeting or townwide vote just to get approval for the spending the new plan would require, so he tentatively hoped to have something to put before residents at town meeting in March 2012, with the building moving taking place later that year.
In the meantime, he said, it is time to move forward with making plans.
“We need the input from the townspeople,” Phillips said.
John McCright is at [email protected].

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