(Host) Castleton residents will weigh in on Town Meeting Day on a controversial new multi-use town hall.
Proponents say a new home for municipal offices, fire and police is desperately needed.
But as VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the $2 million price tag and location is stirring up debate.
(Keck) Castleton Town Manager Charles Jacien stands outside a stately red brick row house that dates back some 200 years.
For over 50 years it housed Castleton’s municipal offices with police upstairs.
(Jacien) "It’s a nice building and it belongs here. It was never intended to be a town hall. It doesn’t function as a town hall right now and as we walk in we can see some deficiencies."
(Keck) Inside, Jacien points to peeling wallpaper, uneven flooring and water damage. Mold and other safety concerns forced the town offices to move to a temporary location last summer.
Jacien says cost estimates to repair and renovate the building would be at least $1.1 million.
A building committee appointed to study the issue recommended against those renovations. Considering the current low interest rates, they said it would be more cost effective to buy land about a mile west of the village and build a new energy efficient town hall complex that would include the police, a new fire station and a large meeting area.
Select board member Christine Smith says she understands people’s emotional attachment to the old site, but says it’s time to invest for the future.
(Smith) "We ought to have a bona fide town hall where we can all get together, vote, house enough people for meetings. That’s not to say this building here doesn’t have its uses. There are certain other viable options that I would like to see explored."
(Keck) But long-time resident Dennis Jensen disagrees.
(Jensen) "Frankly I am against moving the building for several reasons. One, the price. Two, it’s in the middle of nowhere, taking the town hall out of a vibrant little village. And, three, I’m not so sure it’s necessary. I think they could come in for a reasonable fee and make it workable."
(Keck) Local businessman John Rehlen agrees. He says $240,000 from a local foundation and additional handicap accessibility funds would bring renovation costs down by about $300,000.
While he admits the fire department does need a new station, he says that should be considered separately. Voters will decide March 6th.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Castleton.