Monkton proposes new building for town offices, library

MONKTON — Officials in Monkton say they’ve exceeded the capacity of their 1,200-square-foot town hall. According to the 2010 census, Monkton is one of Addison County’s fastest growing towns, expanding at a rate of 12.6 percent in the last decade to a total of 1,980 residents.
Now, officials are hoping to move Monkton’s 152-year-old town hall from its current spot on Monkton Ridge up the street to town-owned land next to Monkton Friends Church overlooking Monkton Pond. There, it would get a 2,880-square-foot addition that would feature an upper level for government offices and a lower level for a larger town library.
The new town building would then be almost four times the size of the current town hall — the library, alone, would cover almost five-times that of its current 600-square-foot shell.
The cost of this new town building is estimated at $1.5 million to $1.75 million, said selectboard Chair John Phillips. If approved in a vote likely to take place next year, this would add 8-10 cents to property taxes to cover a 20-year bond with no outside financial assistance, according to Monkton Treasurer Chuck Roumas.
Although Phillips admits the new structure is expensive, he thinks its necessary. He projects the town’s population will continue to expand and feels a new library and town hall would be crucial to that growth: providing a space for educational opportunities to the town and preserving the local government’s ability to function.
“Not only does the town library need more space, but so does the town government,” he said. “We’re just tripping over ourselves there. It’s really not functional the way it is, and I think our population will only continue to grow.”
To maintain the town hall’s historic status in the national registry, officials will also need the consent of the National Register of Historic Places. Phillips said the town has state support and is just waiting for a federal go-ahead.
But this plan won’t go into action unless voters approve it on Town Meeting Day. Before then, Phillips said townspeople will have a chance to discuss the structure, although he wasn’t sure when a public hearing would be held.
On Town Meeting Day 2010, Monkton residents shot down a $1.4 million bond to build a new town hall on the same property. That plan was different, however. It proposed a more modern structure and didn’t provide a replacement for the town library or move the town hall. It was also cheaper. 
Highlighting differences in the current proposal, Phillips said the proposed 2012 upgrade would have a more spacious design that would allow it to host meetings for up to 50 citizens.
“The original town hall would be open for a community multipurpose room,” he said, delineating the structure’s layout. “The addition on the upper ground level would be the new town government space for all the town offices; the vault; a conference room; separate offices for the zoning administrator, listers, town clerk (and) treasurer; and a work space for people who come in … to utilize (items) from the vault. 
“Between the existing town hall and the new addition, there’s an entryway and lobby area,” he added. “When you have a historic building you want to separate it (from an addition) to maintain the integrity of the original building.”
Beneath the existing town hall there would be a mechanical room, storage and a janitor’s closet.
“The rest of the building — the 72-by-40-foot part — will be the library,” said Phillips.
How does this proposal compare to other towns?
New Haven, with a population of 1,727 (almost 250 fewer people than in Monkton), finished a library-town office building in June of 2009.
The cost of the 3,300-square-foot structure was $794,000, almost half of the lowest cost projection for Monkton’s new building. Furthermore, New Haven found about $200,000 in financial aid, leaving the town with only $594,000 in expenses.
Monkton Treasurer Roumas said it is too soon to draw too close a comparison.
“The issue is that we can’t apply for these grants until we get approval from our citizens to move forward with the project,” he said.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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