Office option goes to Casco polls

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Through the citizens’ petition process, the voters will be given another option for the future Casco Town Hall during June’s election.

The petition, which was being circulated by former selectman Ray Grant, was submitted this week, and it had the required number of signatures from registered voters, according to Casco Town Manager Dave Morton

“The town has received a petition with verified signatures. It will be on agenda for April 28,” Morton said on Tuesday.

Grant introduced his petition to the Casco Board of Selectmen a few weeks ago.

The basic concept is to reduce costs of a future town office by creating an addition to and replacing heating systems of the building now being used by town staff.

Grant said he felt it was important to cap the amount of money spent on expansion of the existing town hall. His reason was to reduce any burden on the property taxpayers.

As stated in the language of the petition, there will a $350,000 cap. Additionally, the referendum would restrict the size of the addition to 3,000 square feet.

The required number of signatures for a citizens’ petition is 10% of Casco voters from the most recent gubernatorial election, according to municipal law. Therefore, at least 76 signatures were needed, according to Town Clerk Lucille Griffin.

Meanwhile, selectmen have been working toward obtaining the cost estimates for two town hall options in a timely manner. Both would be on the property which houses the Casco Fire Station. The other choice, being put forth by the board, would be to build new on the lot.

The basic parameters of the town office options have been handed over to Hancock Lumber. Hancock is being tasked with only doing price estimates for both plans: to build new or expand and renovate.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Grant Plummer said he would not pick a favorite plan when it comes to the debate of build new versus expand. His biggest concern was the cap on the cost that was included in Grant’s petition.

“This petition calls for not spending more than $350,000. I don’t think we can build the building for that dollar figure,” Plummer said.

“A good, long-term decision for the Town of Casco might not be good for that price,” he said, pointing to examples of what happens when the cheapest route is taken.

He said corners were cut on the cost of the Casco Community Center; and although the structure is only six years old, there are cracks in the floors and other maintenance issues.

“My due diligence as a selectman is to do this one right,” and spend the money necessary to do it right, he said.

“I am willing to price the option, but I don’t like having a (price) cap,” Plummer said

“We need to build this for long-term, so it lasts for the next 50 years. I don’t want to build cheap — it doesn’t pay off,” he said.

Casco sizes up Dayton’s Town Hall

If the Casco Energy Committee members had jobs as trip advisors, their recommended destination turned out to be a pleasant tour and visit.

Recently, Town Manager Dave Morton and Selectman Tom Peaslee took the ride to see Dayton’s Town Office, which has been billed as energy-efficient.

Their journey was part of the board’s objective to improve the current, cramped quarters of the Casco Town Hall.

Morton and Peaslee embarked on an information-gathering mission, and reported their findings to the Casco Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.

“When we were down there, I wasn’t sure what I would find,” Peaslee said. “I was impressed. It was a nice building,” he said.

“For a town that size, the people are forward thinking. Everything in the building can expand if they need it to,” he said. “The cost was what they needed it to be,” Peaslee said.

According to Morton, the initial cost estimates fell in the $700,000 range, while the town budgeted $600,000 for the construction project. When the town hall was completed, the total cost was $500,000 — partly because of donated labor, he said.

“So, the numbers we are hearing are about right,” Morton said.

At the same time that volunteer hours lowered the labor cost, the town hired licensed professionals for much of the work.

“All the plumbing was done by plumbers. All the solar installation was done by licensed, qualified individuals. The final solar panels were erected by volunteers. The trusses were brought in and put up by volunteers,” Morton said.

Both Peaslee and Morton commented on the uniqueness of the building, which made it feel more like a residence that an impersonal business building.

“It was not brick and mortar — it fit right into the community,” Peaslee said.

Morton continued along that vein. “It was stick-built. It didn’t look like a commercial building. There were little nuances that made it attractive. Things that didn’t cost a lot, but showed forethought,” Morton said.

“The quality of the doors and the trim was all commercial-grade,” he said.

Also, in the Dayton building, most of the floors had commercial tile similar to what was installed in the Casco Community Center. However, the Dayton Town Hall had carpeted offices, which “helped to mute the sounds.”

Peaslee echoed that observation, saying the space was quiet.

What might also be quiet is someone looking at the electric bill for a building of that size.

“Energy cost were $4,000 to $5,000 annually for heating and lights,” Morton said.

The building had many energy-efficient features including a solar array perched atop the building and purchased through a Efficiency Maine grant, and an open geothermal heating system, Morton said. In many rooms, the lighting was triggered by a motion detector, he said.

“You walk into the room and half of the lighting would go on automatically. To make it brighter, you had to turn a switch. But, when you left the room, the lights dimmed off after a while,” Morton said.

Peaslee said that the residents who helped with the tour were eager to show off what had been accomplished in their town. “It looks like they are very proud of it — it was a community project. It brought the community together,” he said, adding the on-schedule timeline impressed him.

“If we decided to do something like that, it could fit Casco,” Peaslee said

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