Mixed views aired on Alna town office’s future
After hearing from residents Monday night, Alna selectmen planned to gather more information about a modular option for a new town office and get numbers on what it would take to get the cape that now houses it up to the same standards as a new one, town officials said.
Town Clerk Liz Brown said Tuesday, a show of hands showed attendees were “more inclined” toward a new town office. Two or three hands rose in support of improving the cape, Brown said.
In a phone interview Monday night, First Selectman David Abbott said the board would likely not ask town meeting voters March 24 to add onto or replace the cape. Instead, the board will probably ask for money to repair the cape “enough to make it safe,” he said, adding, the board would discuss the matter Feb. 14.
Third Selectman Doug Baston on Tuesday described the meeting as positive, adding, it was refreshing after some of the selectmen’s meetings of late. He said he was hopeful the board could get the information together in time to give voters an option to consider approving for the town office, either formally or at least in a straw vote with a greater number of residents than Monday’s had.
Abbott told residents Monday night, if the town puts off the larger question of the town office’s future, the repairs can’t wait. About two dozen residents turned out at the fire station to hear about, and share their views on, options the board researched. Lewis and Malm Architecture of Bucksport, hired with a Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission grant, estimated a new, stick-built town office at about $492,000 and an addition to the cape at about $116,000 without addressing issues with the roof, sills and floor joists and possible requirements to make the building Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant, Third Selectman Doug Baston said.
So the board looked into a modular town office and got a $240,000 estimate from Maine Modular & Manufactured Homes in Waldoboro, he continued. If the town paid 20 percent down and got a 30-year loan at 4.94 percent interest, the yearly payment would be $13,284, Baston said. The interest estimate was a placeholder one from Bath Savings, he said.
Resident Al Monaco, an electrician, called the $492,000 estimate for stick-built ridiculous. “To me, this is just a joke ... You can’t really weigh (stick-built) against modular when you’re using these kinds of numbers.” Selectmen said the $492,000 estimate started higher, and when they got it down to the $492,000 they knew it was still higher than they would propose spending.
Comments ranged from bulldozing the cape to fixing it, either to keep it or make it more saleable.
If it went on the market now, it would go at a deep discount for lack of maintenance, resident Les Fossel said. Fossel restores old buildings; he suggested voters reject replacing the town office as they once rejected dissolving the town.
Fossel also questioned the need for a town office with a bigger meeting space. The upstairs floor of the fire station was built to provide that, he said.
The meeting room is available any time the town asks, Fire Chief Mike Trask said. Trask reiterated his past suggestion the town bulldoze the cape and put a new town office on the same spot, reusing the well and septic system rather than putting new ones and a road further onto the property.
Abbott said in an interview later, the meeting was inconclusive over the options, but accomplished its goal of seeing where the town stands. “We’re not ready to decide.” So the board will likely seek repair funds and continue researching options, he said.