Casco voters back new town hall

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — A new town hall is on the horizon.

The building will be raised from the foundation up; and, the location is on the same piece of property as the current town hall and the fire station.

Residents who attended Casco Town Meeting on June 10 approved $600,000 for the new building, which will be the replacement for one erected almost 10 years ago as a temporary town office.

By taking on the role of the contractor, the town will be able to cut costs by 15 to 20%, according to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton.

Voting residents simultaneously approved the town office as well as permitting the town to take out a 15-year bond with a municipal bank. The increase to the tax rate would be about eight cents each year, Morton said.

Estimates from the Maine Municipal Bond Bank predicted an interest rate of between 1.3% and 1.7% during the next five years. Likely, the total interest that the town would pay over a 15-year period would be $122,000.

Currently, the town of Casco has no debt service.

Per usual, the topic of a town hall drew much public comment.

People involved in the discussion talked about both Article 24, which funded the construction of a new town hall, and Article 25, which capped the cost at $350,000 for an addition to the old town hall.

It was pointed out numerous times that the current building was built by volunteers as a temporary solution for the town office. The current building was meant to be returned to the Casco Fire and Rescue Department, and used as a storage space, once a new town hall location was determined.

Essentially, when Warrant Article 24 passed with about a dozen people opposing it, it was no longer necessary to vote on Article 25.

During the discussion time, Lynne Potter voiced her opinion.

“I am in favor of passing Article 24. A new building will last longer than an addition to the existing building. We’d probably get 75 years” out of a new building, Potter said.

The lower price being attached to the construction of an addition onto the existing town hall would actually end up being the more costly solution, she said.

“The current building is a shed. It is storage space. Give the shed back to the fire department,” Potter said.

Resident Ray Grant stepped up to the microphone. Grant started the citizen’s petition (Article 25) to spend money on an expansion to the current town office instead of building new.

“I need to dispute. First, the price included the remodel for the existing building. It was built to be a town office. It was built the same way your new building is going to be built,” Grant said.

Grant said he designed an efficient heating system using radiant floor heat and a gas-burning furnace. Also, he offered to open a new article on the floor to raise $100,000 for the fire department to build another shed.

“I have looked at your plans, and they are not adequate. You need six or seven offices to maintain the health. There isn’t even an office space for the town manager,” he said.

“I think these plans are very lacking,” he said.

Selectman Grant Plummer said that after a recent tour of Dayton’s town office, it was decided that Casco could get by with less floor space by using a similar layout.

That is why the packet for Article 24 included photos of Dayton Town Hall with solar panels on the roof.

“What that visit told us is we don’t need one that is 70,000 square feet,” Plummer said.

The town was able to downsize the floor space to about 45,500 square feet. The tour revealed that some shared office space created a better work flow. More accurate floor plans and blueprints will be completed in the future.

Also, the town would be able to downsize the costs by being the project’s contractor.

“In today’s world, the construction management is another 15 to 20% of the costs,” Plummer said.

“I think we have the right team in place to eliminate the construction management piece. With a few hours doing that, the town can save money,” he said.

“That opens a big window for energy savings,” he said.

“This is the best investment for our dollars,” he said, regarding spending more money to get a higher quality product.

“I don’t want to have to replace the front door for another 40 years,” he said.

Resident Nadia Hermos had some questions about where on the property the new building would sit.

“It is basically across the parking lot from where it is now,” Morton said.

The location is on the southeast end of the property — set on the back of the lot from Route 121 and toward the Route 11 junction.

Hermos advised the town to “take advantage of every energy savings” that would pay off in the long run.

Although she was still uncertain how a new building would fit on the lot, Hermos stressed the importance of the appearance.

“I just want it to be good looking and a good statement for the town, and not a bunch of junk,” she said.

“This is a statement building of the town, and it should be nice,” she said.

Resident Eric Dibner made comments in the same vein as Hermos, advocating for energy-efficient expenditures.

“It is great that the board of selectmen has come forward with a plan,” he said.

“It is important that this be an attractive place, a central feature of the town. A lot can be done to make it look beautiful, Dibner said.

The Town of Casco had not yet calculated the total amount of the budget since those numbers fluctuated according to the voting. The total number of registered voters participating at Town Meeting had not been counted by press time.

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