Greenwood chooses Legion land for new town office location
For a time at Saturday’s Greenwood town meeting, it appeared the argument and sentiment for the old Town Hall might prevail.
But in the end, voters easily chose the American Legion property as the site for a new town office.
Residents voted 26-9-1 for the Legion location over the Town Hall, with one vote for the existing town office site on Bird Hill Road.
The town will now build a modular structure next to the Legion Hall, with the project expected to take about six weeks, according to town officials.
Building a new structure on the current site – which suffers from dampness, mold, and structural problems – was never a serious consideration Saturday.
But arguments for renovating the Town Hall on Route 26 got the attention of some.
The initial estimate to fix the Town Hall is $201,000, compared to $142,000 to put a new building at the Legion Hall.
Discussion by town officials earlier this year included a suggestion for a separate project to save the hall and use it for other purposes.
But Betsey Foster, who said she had initially favored the Legion site, felt differently after hearing some of the discussion. “Regardless of how we vote today we’re going to put money into the Town Hall anyway,” she said. Putting the town office there, she said, might cost less in the long run.
She also said some residents are concerned about preserving the character of the town, and the hall “kind of represents Greenwood, and the town office does.”
Tony Chapman said moving the town office to the Legion site would take more focus away from the center of Locke's Mills.
He suggested looking for grants to help fund the extra cost of putting the office at the town hall. Greenwood would then have a multi-use facility, he said, that could also bring in some income for the town.
But Cathy Newell said that with the town meeting and many other community functions now taking place at the Legion Hall itself, “this in many ways is a heart of the village.”
Newell asked what the relationship would be between the town and the Legion. She also wondered what would happen to the Legion property and a town office located there if the Post building eventually closed because the organization was no longer viable.
Town Manager Kim Sparks said the town would have a 99-year lease for the property, and would be responsible for plowing the parking lot.
As for the long-term fate of the Legion, Commander Wayne Hakala said, “Yes, we are all growing older. But this post will be going many, many more years.” And, he said, the agreement with the town would reflect that “If either side decides to call it quits,” If the Legion decided we were going to close down, the town would automatically become the owner of this hall. And vice versa.”
Toward the end of the discussion more people began to speak in favor of the Legion site over the Town Hall.
Budget Committee Chairman Brian Dunham said he believes there would be other costs associated with the town hall, including such things as lead paint removal, the replacement of old windows and possibly the installation of fire sprinklers, which could bring the total cost to more than $300,000, he said.
Selectman Arnie Jordan said town officials had tried hard to hold the line on the budget. If the town chose the more expensive Town Hall site, “Where is the money coming from to help people pay their taxes?” he asked.
Larry Merlino suggested the town set up a reserve account to add to in coming years, perhaps seek grant funds, and create a separate five-year plan for the old hall.
After the vote was taken and the Legion plan prevailed, there was scattered applause in the Legion Hall, where the meeting took place.
“No” to MollyOckett funds
Voters approved all money articles on the warrant except for one – a request from the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce for $1,038 to help support the annual MollyOckett Days festival in Bethel.
BACC Executive Director Robin Zinchuk attended the meeting and said the Chamber, which took over organization of the event three years ago from the Mahoosuc Arts Council, has made improvements to the event but the costs are growing. Noting that people from surrounding towns also attend, she asked that the towns provide some financial support through taxes.
But with no discussion from voters, the request was turned down by a 15-12 vote.
With the approval of the other articles, the municipal budget is very close to last year’s figure, and the mil rate is expected to remain at 11.65.
In election of town officials, incumbents Selectman Fred Henderson and SAD 44 School Director Dick Melville were returned to office unopposed for three-year terms.
The meeting, which lasted about an hour and a half, was moderated by Woodstock Town Manager Vern Maxfield.