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April 11, 2008

 

Town hall projects widespread

Area towns are either building new or renovating existing buildings

Town Hall

Bob Ellis/staff photographer   
John Roalef, right, and Pat Shaver of D. Hillman Brothers Construction put in a suspended ceiling in the new Marathon Town Hall. In the background is Broc Donnison, who is painting a metal door frame. The town is spending $300,000 on a project to renovate the former Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Route 221 to replace its current town hall on Brink Street. It is one of a series of town hall projects under way.

By CHRISTINE LAUBENSTEIN
Staff Reporter
claubenstein@cortlandstandard.net

TRUXTON — Town Clerk Kim Reakes is looking forward to conducting town business from an office in a new town hall rather than her kitchen table.
Reakes has worked from her Prospect Street home during her time as clerk. But that will change later this year as the town completes a $200,000 renovation project to convert a former train depot on Railroad Street into a town hall.
“It’d be great for them to go to a beautiful renovated train station and look at a book instead of my kitchen table,” Reakes said, referring to town residents. “I have three computers in my house and two file cabinets. This past deer season I was inundated with hunters not from Truxton.”
Truxton is among a series of area towns that are renovating or constructing town halls.
A state push for increased safety of town employees and their documents, handicapped accessibility laws and aging buildings are the main forces behind the projects, town officials say.
On Wednesday, Marathon Town Supervisor Chuck Adams and Marathon Town Board member Don Hines checked out the status of their town hall renovation project, which Bouckville-based D. Hillman & Sons is undertaking.
The town is spending $300,000 on a project to renovate the former Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Route 221 to replace its current town hall on Brink Street.
The current building is too small and not safe by today’s standards. The new building will have a special holding room for prisoners and a security system for the court clerk to buzz people into the building during the day.
The town is getting a $10,000 grant for its new justice court, Adams said. Grants are the main way the state is trying to encourage towns to make their town halls safer, Cortlandville Judge Fran Casullo said.
The town of Cortlandville, which last year completed a $1.6 million renovation project that included a new court facility, has been awarded an approximately $18,000 state grant to further update its court, Casullo said.
The money will pay for such items as a metal detector, a bigger safe and seven more security cameras, Casullo said.
The state is also encouraging new record storage standards and pushing to have town clerks stop working out of their homes.
State regulations for records storage include secure locks, a fire suppression system and limited access to storage areas.
“We have so many new mandates that the town has to comply with,” Cincinnatus Town Board member Luann King said. Cincinnatus is in the beginning stages of planning a town hall renovation project that would improve records storage.
Town hall renovation and building projects are also being driven by the Americans With Disability Act, which was made into a law in 1991. The Act requires town halls to be handicapped-accessible, provided towns can afford to do so.
Handicapped-accessibility was the main reason Virgil built a new $365,000 town hall in the late 1990s, Virgil Town Clerk Bonnie Hand said.
It is also a big reason for the town of Homer’s approximately $1 million town hall renovation project, now in progress, which includes an elevator.
Some towns, including Scott, do not have fully wheelchair-accessible town halls and hope to start planning for town hall renovations in the near future.
Other towns, such as Lapeer, don’t foresee pursing town hall projects anytime in the near future. Officials there say their town halls are sufficient given their town’s small populations.
“Well it’s been OK for all these years,” Lapeer town board member John Robinson said. “Eventually we’re going to have to get it modernized”
Small towns often desire to update their town halls or build town halls, but finances do not allow for it.
Cuyler, for example, likely does not have the money to build a town hall, Town Board member Keith White said.
The Town Board meets in the town barn in the warmer months, and the fire hall in the colder months. The town clerk works out of her home, while the judge’s office is in the highway department.
“It’d be nice to have just one building where everything is,” he said. “We’re trying to look into doing something, but with money troubles it’s hard to do anything.”
Town of Harford voters will vote in the coming months on a $700,000 to $800,000 project to build a new joint  town hall and fire station.
“I’m hoping they (the taxpayers) will approve it,” Town Supervisor Ray Marsh said. “It is difficult for a small town with a very small tax base. We’re working as hard as we can to keep the cost down, and hopefully we’ll find a lot of grant money.”
Marsh said the main reasons for the project are to make the town hall handicapped-accessible and energy efficient, and to add more space to the fire station.

Rundown of projects

Cincinnatus — The town is considering renovating its town hall to free up more space, but has no definite plans yet.
Cortlandville — The town completed a $1.6 town hall renovation project in the fall.
Cuyler — No plans.
DeRuyter — The town is planning an approximately $750,000 town hall renovation project.
Dryden — The town completed a $3 million town hall renovation project in the fall.
Freetown — No plans.
Groton — No plans.
Harford — The town is planning a $700,000 to $800,000 new joint town hall and fire station, subject to voter approval.
Homer — The town is in the middle of an approximately $900,000 town hall renovation project.
Lapeer — No plans.
Marathon — The town is in the middle of a $300,000 project to renovate a building that will serve as a new town hall.
Preble — No plans.
Scott — The town will soon consider a Town Hall project.
Solon — No plans.
Taylor — Will likely consider a project in the near future.
Truxton — The town is in the middle of a $200,000 project to renovate its train depot to serve as a town hall.
Virgil — The town completed a new $365,000 town hall in 1999.
Willet — The town spent about $125,000 in the 1990s to buy a country store and convert it into a new town hall.