Casco town hall site plan takes shape

A TOUR of Dayton Town Hall, shown here in photo, inspired the Casco Board of Selectmen to downsize the floor plan and use some similar energy-efficient technology for Casco’s future Town Office building. (Photo courtesy of Town of Casco)

A TOUR of Dayton Town Hall, shown here in photo, inspired the Casco Board of Selectmen to downsize the floor plan and use some similar energy-efficient technology for Casco’s future Town Office building. (Photo courtesy of Town of Casco)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The question of where Casco’s future town hall would be situated on the lot was one that residents asked during town meeting.

It opened the door to some good ideas.

Not only did reasonable recommendations come from the public, but also Casco’s public safety personnel provided sage advice in the following weeks.

“They suggested moving it upfront, aligned with the fire station. The town hall location would make a good presentation to the public and be easy to find,” Casco Town Manager Dave Morton said recently.

“That allows the back lot to be used for fire and rescue trainings,” he said, adding that trainings sometimes involve less aesthetic items like junked vehicles ripped apart by the Jaws of Life, or burnt out buildings.

“It will make things look better,” he said.

Also, reserving the rear of the lot for the public safety department will improve response times for transporting people to a hospital.

According to Selectman Holly Hancock, the plan is to have a helicopter landing pad for LifeFlight.

“It would be easy to paint the ‘H’ there, right on the pavement. It’s a better place to land,” Hancock said.

Normally, when a LifeFlight is needed from Casco, the helicopter pilot lands in the field and has to avoid hitting high-tension wires.

Selectmen met on June 23 for the first time since voters approved $600,000 for a new town office on the property, where the current office is situated.

Morton said he has submitted the conceptual design to the Casco Planning Board.

“That gives us the opportunity to introduce the concept,” he said. “Also, it provides additional notice to the public so they can be involved in that conversation.”

Some of the next steps include putting together a site plan, and discussing which architectural services to use. There has been some consideration of the town developing its own drawings.

“We will find out more as we begin pinning the boundaries. That may dictate the shape of the building,” Morton said.

The appearance of the town hall would be much more appealing to the eyes if it were built parallel to the Casco Fire and Rescue Department building. Ideally, the smaller parking lot would offer some space for customers running errands at the town office, and the employees would park behind the new structure.

Putting the future town hall toward the front of the property may involve modifying the parking lot and assess road, Morton said.

Another question that came into play was whether or not the town could purchase more land, the for-sale property next to the fire station lot.

Morton’s short answer: the town hall project could be completed without purchasing more land. There is enough space on the lot, he said. However, the real estate could be a wise investment in the future, Morton said.

“The property owner approached us and the board said it was not good time to consider that,” he said.

Since that time, the landowner turned the process of selling the parcel to a realty company, Morton said.

“If the board would like to look at that property, it would be a valuable asset to the town. I don’t know if there would be public support” for a potential land purchase, Morton said.

“There was concern about commercial uses there,” he said.

Selectman Thomas Peasley said it would be a shame if the land was sold, and the town lost the opportunity to buy it.

“The initial reason we backed away was we thought the amount being asked was not reasonable. We haven’t appraised it,” Morton said.

Chairman Grant Plummer said he appreciated Peasley’s line of thinking.

“It is clear thinking for the future. Last time he (the property owner) approached us, we didn’t know where town office was going to be. So, our hands were tied,” Plummer said. “It is conversation worth having with” the real estate company. The land offered was back away from road. I think we are interested in the road frontage section.”

Plummer added, “We should have that property surveyed. That would be a relatively quick thing that could happen and is affordable.”

Morton said the board could decide to investigate the property.

“The town office project can occur if we have more property or not,” Morton said.

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