NEW VINEYARD — The town has outgrown Smith Hall, its venerable gathering site in the village center.

Nearly two dozen residents met Thursday evening to discuss other locations and costs. According to Dave Fletcher, building committee chairman and meeting facilitator, taxpayers face at least $150,000 in repairs and modifications to the hall just to meet state codes and make it handicap accessible. The basement leaks, he said, and there is no room for a full septic system. Those are two of the problems the committee shared with the audience.

“The cellar is under water, and we run two sump pumps every day, all day,” Fletcher said. “And the building has a huge mold problem.”

The building’s back wall is close to a stream and the front is only a few feet from Route 27.

“We can’t dredge Lemon Stream anymore, and the water table gets higher and higher,” he said.

Selectmen have had an offer of $75,000 for Smith Hall, but the audience asked the committee to explore every option before making any decisions on location. The town owns a 59-acre property on Route 27, approximately two miles north of the town, but Jill Bates suggested the location was not a secure and easily accessible spot.

“I think location should be your primary considerations,” she said.

Resident Connie Duggan questioned why the decision had to be made so quickly. Taxpayers could hold meetings in other locations while they raised money over the next few years.

“Is there the possibility to make an interim plan while we raise the money?” resident Connie Duggan asked. “Can we rent a space?”

Selectmen may hold gatherings at the Fire Department’s building behind Smith Hall, and others suggested renting Forster Memorial Building in Strong or the Fairbanks Schoolhouse in Farmington.

Fletcher noted that the town’s population has grown 10 percent over last 10 years and could grow another 10 percent in the next decade. Any structure would need to be at least 50 feet by 120 feet, with meeting space and offices, a handicapped-accessible entrance and restroom, and room for storage of town records.

Another possibility would be purchasing the four-acre lot next to Our Village Market, according to fire Chief Doug Churchill. The lot is in shoreland protection, but 25 feet of the brook is in the town’s general development zone. That property is available for $45,000, which could be paid in three $15,000 payments at no interest.

Selectmen and the committee scheduled a special town meeting for Tuesday, May 29, at Smith Hall. Voters will be asked to approve accepting Community Development Block Grant funds for the library at 6:30 p. m. At 7 p. m., they will be asked to approve a warrant article to appropriate $3,000 to start surveying and drafting plans for a new town hall. The committee also urged residents to continue to search for potential locations and willing sellers for four or more acres of buildable property.


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