Casco to host town hall open house
What: An open house of new Casco town hall
When: Tuesday, from 4 to 7 p.m.
Where: Casco Town Hall, 635 Meadow Road (Route 121)
By Dawn De Busk
CASCO — In the new office of the Casco town manager sits the very same desk that he has used since the town office was at the old Casco Community Center in the late 1970s.
When the Town of Casco built a new town hall to replace the temporary one on the property, they did not budget much for office furnishings.
“Ninety percent of the office furniture is from the former town hall. Ten percent is new,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said.
Some of the new items were ordered from the same office supply manufacturer that the town had done business with in the past. Also, a few pieces — two antique-looking tables were picked up from the owner of the Auburn Mall, who coincidently has a home in Casco.
“We repurposed as much as we could. The new equipment is in the customer service area,” Morton said. That is because the customer service area is so spacious that more chairs were needed, he said.
The town office has been operating out of the new Town Hall since Nov. 14, and many people have toured the rooms beyond the customer service area.
This upcoming Tuesday, the town staff will host the official Open House for the public. The Open House will be held from 4 to 7 p.m., and it will give taxpayers a chance to see how the allocated funds were spent.
The construction project was capped at $600,000 — a decision that was made by voters at Town Meeting in June 2015. The actual construction started May 10, 2016, when R.N. Willey & Sons Excavating did the earth-moving portion of the project.
“The total cost was about $590,000. We are about $10,000 under budget.” Morton said.
The new structure is about 4,800-square feet, compared to the temporary town office which is between 1,800 and 2,000-square feet, Morton estimated.
The former town office will be used by the Casco Fire & Rescue Department. That was the plan all along — except it was not supposed to take 11 years for the temporary office to be vacated, Morton said.
Many of those folks who’ve already toured the new building have commented on how much value the town got for the price, he said.
“We are pleased with it. The voters need to understand the value for the investment,” Morton said.
“We used internal resources. We had two experienced builders on the board of selectmen, Grant Plummer and Tom Peaslee. They gave us guidance,” he said. “We met with local contractors. Most of them gave us a good deal, because the town hall was a source of pride for them,” he added.
Additionally, the town was given a good price for materials by the companies that worked on the construction project.
Morton credited part-time employee Bob Tooker with doing much of the day-to-day tasks, including lining up the subcontractors.
“We would get multiple prices” on different aspects of the construction, Morton said.
The town took on the role of the general contractor, so the process of going out to bid did not require selectmen’s approval.
“We did not take the regular approach of taking the lowest bid,” he said.
Instead, the focus was on keeping the work as local as possible.
“All the subcontractors were great to work with,” Morton said.
Upon entering the building, there are three work stations with access to the public. For the most part, only two windows are manned. But, a third window will be opened during busy times, Morton said.
A little detail: The copier is accessible to town staff in its cubby. But a half wall is designed to buffer the noise from the photocopier and the shredder so that it doesn’t interfere with residents conducting business at the windows. The office doors are primarily glass instead of all wood.
“Glass doors were recommended by the architect. It was important to have glass because it allows more light into rooms. It makes the rooms seem bigger,” he said. “Also, it provides transparency of government to the public. Meetings are not going on behind closed doors.”
The architect also added a bonus room to the design. The bonus office is ideal for any selectman who comes in to work. It is also a good work room for the Animal Control Officer (ACO) when she isn’t out in the field, Morton said.
There are two heating systems. One is dual purpose: an air conditioner in the summer and a heat pump that warms up the room when it gets as cold as 30 degrees, he said. Then, there is a forced hot air system that kicks on when it gets colder than 30 degrees, he said. Both systems are propane-fired.
Last Wednesday, outside the window of the town treasurer’s room a ladder was propped against the wall and a worker had a handful of wires.
“We are putting in a humidifier system. The dry air is not good for people or for documents or for computers,” Morton said.