Input sought on Monkton town office

MONKTON — The facts are pretty straightforward: Neither the Monkton town office nor the town’s Russell Memorial Library has a source of potable water. Both buildings are energy hogs. The parking situation stinks.
In theory, the solution to these problems is also pretty straightforward: Build new facilities. In practice, however, things get rather more complicated — Monkton voters have three times defeated building proposals.
That is why the Monkton Municipal Building Committee is going out of its way to solicit as much input as possible from town residents before undertaking another design project.
“What typically happens is you come up with a design, develop a proposal and then try to sell that to the voters,” said Building Committee member Peter Straube, who brings to his work 29 years of experience as a professor at Champlain College’s Stiller School of Business. “This time the approach is to find out what people will support, and then come up with a design.”
A year ago, the nine-member committee conducted a survey of the town and received 219 responses.
Nearly three-quarters expressed support for a new building of some kind: 10 percent for new town offices, 18 percent for town offices and a library and 44 percent for town offices, library and community meeting space.
Roughly two-thirds of respondents thought the town should sell the current town office and library buildings to reduce the town’s annual costs and help pay for construction of a new building.
A majority of those surveyed suggested the following as appropriate uses for the new building:
•  Community meetings and groups.
•  Library and historical society programming.
•  Lectures and performances.
Other popular uses supported by residents included small family or social events, fitness classes and arts and crafts studio space.
Survey results in hand, the Building Committee hosted an open house on Dec. 8, where committee members encouraged town residents to ask questions and contribute ideas.
According to a Needs Statement released by the committee in advance of the open house, “The town office building no longer provides an acceptable working environment. There is no space for conducting private business, nor is there a flexible space where groups of community members can meet. There is barely any space left for storing town records as the vault is overflowing.”
Simply put: The town offices need more space. So, too, does Russell Memorial Library — to accommodate increased programming, a growing collection of materials and work areas for both patrons and library staff.
The open house went well, according to Building Committee member Stephen Pilcher, who also chairs the town selectboard.
“It was amazing,” he said. “We scheduled it to coincide with the recycling drop-off so it was easy for town residents to stop by on their way home from the recycling center. Lots of great conversations, ideas and thoughts regarding the town hall and library.”
Straube estimated that 35 residents visited the town hall on Monkton Ridge that morning, while another 50 or so visited the recycling center. Information and concept drawings were posted at both locations. The proposed building site, three lots north of the current town offices, received a number of visitors as well: the Boy Scouts were selling Christmas trees there.
Hoping to spark conversations and get feedback, the Building Committee posted a number of guiding design principles, many of them developed from comments it had received on the survey:
•  Minimize cost and tax impacts.
•  Preserve the historic character of the village.
•  Take advantage of the views of Cedar Lake (also known as Monkton Pond) and the Adirondack Mountains.
•  Energy-efficiency.
Preliminary conceptual designs — for one- and two-story buildings — were displayed for comparing and contrasting. No clear preference for either design was expressed by visitors, Straube said.
In 2006 Monkton voters authorized the purchase of five acres on Monkton Ridge for $92,000. Over the next eight years three proposals for putting a building there went down in flames:
•  2010 ($1.4 million): a two-story building housing the town offices upstairs and a community multi-purpose room below.
•  2012 ($1.5 million): moving the town hall to the new site and building additions onto it that would accommodate town offices, library and a community space.
•  2013 ($1.05 million): a one-story building housing the town offices, library and a community space.
In each of the last two years, however, voters have approved $40,000 contributions to the town building fund, so the Building Committee has some reason to feel optimistic. Even so, it has taken a step back to ask some basic questions.
“What do we value most?” Straube said. “How is this building going to function? How get we get the most bang for the buck? Do we want it to just be inexpensive or do we want to try to meet all of our needs?”
The committee’s next step, he said, is to put together a request for proposals (RFP) for the building project. Straube estimated that the earliest town vote on a new building plan would occur in November 2019. A long time to wait, to be sure, but the committee is hoping that taking its time and including the community at every step will ensure success.
“The goal is not just to have a nicer town office or a nicer library, but to create a multipurpose community space,” Straube said. “We don’t have a place where you can come in and say, ‘This is our town hall.’ That’s what I would like to feel.”
The Monkton Building Committee wants to hear from you: visit them online at monktonvt.com/boards-and-committees/municipal-building-committee or email [email protected].
Reach Christopher Ross at [email protected].

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