Lincoln town office moves to temporary new home

LINCOLN — “It’s like having new roommates,” said Lincoln Town Clerk Sally Ober as she looked around the town office’s snug new home-away-from-home in the Lincoln Library one day last week.
Ober, Lincoln Treasurer Lisa Truchon, Lister David Harrison and Zoning Administrator Bob Hall are tucked in, desk to desk, around the library’s Community Room for the next six months while Lincoln constructs a new town office.
The old town office at 62 Quaker St. was closed the last week of April while the municipal staff packed up and then reopened in the library space at 222 West River Road on May 2.
Among the pleasant surprises for Ober in the office’s temporary digs: “I’m not wearing my long underwear to work. And you can print that.” Ober’s desk in the old building was right near the vault and always cold, she said, but the Lincoln Library is clean, light, warm and cozy.
After being open for business in the library only two days, town staff were still getting organized in the new space. So it was possible to overhear exchanges such as the following:
Lincoln resident: Where’s the grand list?
Clerk: I have no idea. I didn’t pack it, but Lisa has it on the computer.
Ober planned the move like a complex military campaign, right down to the color coding, and supervised her move crew of Truchon, Selectboard Administrative Assistant Matthew Ham-Ellis and Assistant Clerk Kayla Atkins, along with some help from selectboard Chair Bill Finger.
Moving a town office brings its own unique challenges, such as figuring out what kind of climate-controlled trailer would provide the best conditions and security to preserve and store the town’s permanent record so that they’re both safe and accessible.
  LINCOLN ZONING ADMINISTRATOR Bob Hall looks through a town map in the temporary storage facility that the town is using as the town vault during the construction of the new town office.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Ober expressed a considered opinion on what it’s like to move an entire town office, complete with 200 years’ worth of land records and vital records, along with a century or so of lister and zoning records, as well as office supplies.
“It’s a lot of work. It’s a little confusing. It’s an opportunity to clean up,” she said.
The town office in the library is more efficient and more organized, said Ober, because it must operate for the next six months in half the space.
Ober said she is a little sad to say goodbye to the old town office building, which will be torn down next Monday to make way for the new one, but it was a decision based on cost and practicality. The old building was constructed in 1973 and provided 990 square feet of office space. The new building will be more than twice as big — about 2,320 square feet.
When residents approved the $590,000 town office bond in March 2015, the idea was to renovate the existing building and add on to it, Finger said. But the town got only one bid for the project, which came back $100,000 over the bond. This sent town officials back to the drawing board.
Finger said a committee then worked with Middlebury architectural firm Keefe and Wesner along with Mill Bridge Construction to find a way to deliver an upgraded and expanded facility within the financial constraints dictated by the bond. What the town learned was that it would be more cost-effective to do a design-build project from the ground up (including the cost of demolition) than to renovate.
Ober said the town wanted a low-maintenance structure that would be built to last, and she is pleased that the town will be able to get the building within budget without compromising on quality.
Finger said construction is moving ahead in an orderly fashion. A new 400-foot well was drilled earlier in April (water from the dug well that serviced the 1973 building was not potable) and a mound septic system was installed. Like many an older Vermont septic system, Finger said the old system was a bit of a mystery.
“Well, there was something there,” he said.
Meanwhile, the town is about to finish getting all the necessary state permits.
  THE LINCOLN TOWN clerk’s office has now moved out of its old home on Quaker Street, seen here, and into space in the Lincoln Library. The old building is due to be demolished next week.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Demolition of the 1973 building is scheduled for May 16. Shortly thereafter construction will begin. The new town office is due to open in October.
Finger said the town will be reusing the old propane boiler in the new building, but the new building will be better insulated and more energy efficient.
“Well, it’s exciting, and it’s going to get done pretty fast,” said Finger, as construction is about to get under way. “We’re anticipating that assuming we get going the middle of May that it should be finished by the end of October, and we’ll be able to go back in at that point. We’re looking forward to a substantial increase in space and efficiency and energy efficiency. The building that’s there has served the town very well for the last 50 or so years. It’s just at the point where it needs to be bigger and a little bit improved. So that’s where we’re going, and we appreciate the town supporting it.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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