Jay OKs building purchase


JAY – Residents voted 92-to-72 Monday to spend $270,000 to buy the former Jay Family Restaurant and spend the remainder of the $729,000 in the reserve account to renovate it into a new town office and police station.

It has been estimated that it could cost $500,000 to renovate the building but town officials are hoping it will cost less.

The Jay Building Committee has been working to get a new municipal building for eight years with the price tag reaching $1.5 million for a new 10,000-square-foot building. Voters rejected the project at least once and the committee continued to work with Jay resident Craig Boone, an architect and Building Committee member, to scale the project back.

The 7,200-square-foot restaurant on 1.27 acres, owned by Janet Diaz of Jay, has been gutted of any material that had mold caused from a leaking roof drain and years of being vacant.

The secret ballot vote came after a debate of the pros and cons of buying the restaurant, or building new, and a surprise offer of a former convent for $161,000.

More useable space on one floor with room to expand, more parking area and a more centralized location were a few of the selling points.

One of the opposing comments involved less space than the current building, which has lacked basement use for several years because of mold and air-quality issues.

Other concerns voiced were removing a prime piece of commercial property from the town’s tax roll, and not having space for dispatch services if voters agree to keep the operation in Jay.

Resident Jeffrey Fournier, a corporal with the Jay Police Department, urged the more than 170 people in attendance at the special town meeting not to buy the restaurant building on Route 4 and to follow the initial plan and build a new municipal office.

Hyla Friedman, another resident, said, “We’re not a town that is going to grow. We have to do something to bring this town back. It’s high time people face the facts. We don’t need a brand new building. … I don’t think we should ask for the moon. We should be realistic and come down to earth.”

Police Chief Larry White Sr. said “yes,” some of the space would be smaller but he could work with what the people gave him.

Resident the Rev. Roger Nauss said he went to the restaurant building and toured it Monday morning.

“All the mold was removed and gutted right down,” Nauss said. “The beauty of the facility is 100 percent of the space is useable and it’s handicap accessible. The price is a bargain.”

Any improvements would add to the value, Nauss said.

“Sometimes bargains only come up once in a life time,” he said.

Brian Thompson of The Follieri Group LLC, which bought 2 Church St. 10 days ago, offered the town the former St. Rose of Lima Church convent to the townspeople for $1,000 over the $160,000 paid for it right before voters voted. He also said the group would install an elevator in the building, which he estimated was 5,000 square feet without including the basement, which has 11-foot ceilings.

Residents lined up to vote after selectmen’s Chairman Bill Harlow asked for a secret ballot.

The lines wound around the room as voters received their blue cards and were asked to circle yes or no.

After voting closed, ballot clerks Rita Farrington and Winnie Shink separated and counted the cards and double checked them under the watchful eye of Town Clerk Ronda Palmer and meeting Moderator Michael Gentile.

The “yes” pile was slightly larger than the “no” pile from the onset.

After it was over those who voted yes applauded.

Town Manager Ruth Marden said she’ll meet with Boone and Building Committee Chairwoman Pearl Cook to discuss the next step before she brings the plan to selectmen on Monday, Feb. 12, after an information meeting on warrant articles for the April annual town meeting.