Greenwood selectman favors new site for office
CEO Joelle Corey-Whitman is expected to report to Greenwood selectmen next week on possible options to relocate the ailing Town Office on Bird Hill Road.
The 19th-century former school building has a wet basement that has led to mold issues. The office also has a structural problem with the main girder caused by rot and the work of carpenter ants, according to town officials.
For the past two years a building committee has been studying options in order to prepare a recommendation for the 2013 May town meeting. The options discussed initially included renovation, replacement and moving to the Town Hall across the street.
But renovation has been ruled out because the problems are too extensive, and the Town Hall has also been dropped because fixing that old building would be too expensive, said Town Manager Kim Sparks. So more recently the committee has been focusing on replacing the existing building with a modular or stick-built structure on the same site.
But at last week’s selectmen’s meeting Fred Henderson told the board, “I think it would be better on a lot somewhere else. If you looked around town you’d have hard work to find a lot worse than this.”
The working plan would provide storage space only in a partial basement at the current site, with no egress, and there could still be concerns about how dry it would be.
Henderson said it would be better to have a full basement to possibly provide meeting space. But a full basement could only be built on the current site by blasting away ledge.
He also said a level site would provide better access to the building, instead of the current steps. And, he said, the town would generally be better served by planning for possible long-term uses.
In defense of the Bird Hill location, Corey-Whitman, who has been working with the committee, said modern technology would allow the construction of a watertight basement. She also cited the convenient location of the current office, just off Route 26.
But, she said, she could look for other town-owned properties.
Whatever the choice, Corey-Whitman said, “It’s very important that this building go away.”
She said that because of the mold the air quality is “bad,” and that she notices the effect personally even during the short times she spends there. “This is an OSHA violation, the air we breathe in here,” she said.
She also said she believed there is asbestos in the floor tiles, which could require expensive asbestos abatement work before the building was taken down or burned.
After hearing that, Selectman Amy Chapman said, “It might be better to find a fresh start somewhere else.”
The board also discussed options for heating, drainage and flooring for a new building, wherever it might be located.
In other business last week, Fire Chief Al Curtis reported the Fire Department will receive a $5,000 grant through the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency to purchase coldwater rescue gear, including suits, helmets and life vests. He said such gear is important because of the many ponds in town.
“The next time four or five drunk people fall out of their boat in North Pond in the middle of the night, you’ll have plenty of gear,” Chapman said, referring to an incident last year.
The board also met with Doug Grover about the continuing issue of cleanup on his Rowe Hill property.
Corey-Whitman has characterized it as an illegal junkyard and has been pressuring him for more than a year to clean it up, following complaints from neighbors. Since November the town has been working on filing paperwork in county court on the matter.
But Grover, using the example of a mattress he is using against the back of his house to help keep out the cold this winter, asked, “Why can’t I use stuff that I feel is usable and if it’s organized and presentable so the neighbors don’t complain?”
“There’s too much stuff piled up,” said Corey-Whitman. “It’s not leaving the property.”
She reminded him that selectmen authorized her to go onto the property to work with him and take photos to mark progress.
“I don’t want you to take pictures,” replied Grover.
After a half hour of discussion, Henderson said, “We’re not getting anywhere.”
The board moved on to other business.