Monkton defeats town hall plan again

MONKTON — In voting on Town Meeting Day, Monkton voters shot down a proposal for a new municipal building for the second time in two years, this time by a 286-224 tally. The new plan called for moving and expanding the town’s existing 152-year-old town hall.
With town officials complaining of too little room to operate effectively and Monkton’s population expanding at one of the county’s quickest rates — 12.6 percent in the last decade, according to the 2010 census — John Phillips, town selectboard chair and municipal building committee chairman, said the committee will go back to the drawing board when it meets next week.
But a new town hall and library remains one of Phillips’ top priorities for the town. 
“We’re growing as a town,” he said. “It really is a necessity.”
The first defeat came in 2010, when Monkton voters defeated, 226-193, a $1.4 million bond vote for a new municipal building because of the its price tag and ultra-modern design.
Over the last two years, the town building committee cooked up a new plan that called for moving Monkton’s town hall from its current spot on Monkton Ridge to town-owned land up the street, next to Monkton Friends Church, overlooking Monkton Pond.
Then, the building was slated to get a 2,880-square-foot addition that would feature an upper level for government offices and a lower level for a town library that would be about five times larger than the current library’s 600-square-foot home near town hall.
The price tag was $1.5 million, $100,000 more than the 2010 proposal, but it included the new library as well as a traditional design based on and incorporating Monkton’s current town hall.
Town Treasurer Chuck Roumas said that if the building was approved, it would probably add 8 cents to the property tax rate — or $160 a year on a $200,000 home — to cover a 20-year, $1.5 million bond.
Roumas and Phillips said outside grants could lower the cost, but that Monkton couldn’t apply for grants until the town had committed to the building.
Phillips thinks this Tuesday’s setback came down to the money.
“I guess we have to figure out how we can provide new town quarters and a new town library for less money,” he said. “We’re not able to really do an efficient job of running the day-to-day needs of the town. We’re on top of each other. We need the space to operate more efficiently. We also need the meeting space. We’ve had some DRB (development review board) meetings where people can’t even fit in the existing space.”
The one thing Phillips doesn’t want to happen, he said, is to see a small addition to the current town hall. He thinks five years down the line, the town will outgrow such an addition and require further expansion.
“To just do an addition will make it more difficult and make it as expensive later on down the road,” he said. “I’d like to support the town for a longer term than two or three or five years.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected].

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