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Moretown votes on new town offices next week

On Tuesday, November 5, Moretown voters will be asked to approve up to $40,000 in short-term borrowing for new town offices to be constructed on the current site of the Moretown Elementary School playground, and on Tuesday, October 29, the Moretown Town Office Committee conducted an informational meeting to tell voters exactly what those town offices will look like—physically and financially.

In the two years since the old town offices were destroyed due to flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, Moretown established temporary town offices at Kaiser Drive on Route 2 in a building the town leases from Moretown Landfill. In the meantime, the Moretown Town Office Committee conducted an all-inclusive survey of sites on which to rebuild, ultimately selecting the site of the Moretown Elementary School playground as the best option.

The total cost to construct town offices at the playground site is $865,286, but the town's out-of-pocket expense will be offset by a $700,000 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) that Moretown received this summer, plus over $120,000 in insurance money and $25,000 from the town's Deeryard Fund, which is dedicated to "use for children" and will pay for building a new playground on the other side of the school.

Taking into account this available funding, the out-of-pocket expense for the new town offices comes in at about $5,000, and the Moretown Town Office Committee is asking the town to approve up to $40,000 in short-term borrowing to allow for overrun costs of a little less than 5 percent of the total cost.

"The town may use up to $40,000, but it may not use all of it," committee chair Clark Amadon said on Tuesday, explaining that the estimated costs for the project are on the "conservative side," and the actual costs could be lower.

According to design plans drawn up by Maclay Architects of Waitsfield, the new town offices will have a total area of just under 2,000 square feet. That's about twice as large as the old offices, which came in at just under 900 square feet, but the old offices "needed to expand," Amadon explained, even before Tropical Storm Irene.

In the old offices, "there was space for the assistant clerk, but there wasn't space for the treasurer," Bill Gallup of Maclay Architects said on Tuesday when presenting the design plans for the new town offices, which will contain a "semi-open office area" and a meeting room with a "pre-assembly area" that allows it to be "a little more flexible" in accommodating attendees, Gallup explained. The new town offices will also contain a larger vault to protect all of the town's important records, whereas the old office's vault could protect just some.

The new town offices will sit three feet above the Tropical Storm Irene floodplain and one foot above the 500-year floodplain. The building itself will also contain "as much flood protection as possible," Gallup said, explaining that its windows are three feet from the base of the building and its doors will be waterproofed.

By building adjacent to Moretown Elementary School, the new town offices can tie in to existing electric, water and septic systems and utilize existing municipal parking, which reduces the cost of constructing on the playground site significantly. Of the seven sites that Henry Erickson of Erickson Consulting drew up cost estimates for, "the playground site was the most economical," he said.

Still, residents who attended Tuesday's meeting had some reservations about the project. One resident said he doesn't think the town should be building in a floodplain and asked how much money will be spent on waterproofing that the town could save by building elsewhere.

As it turns out, the money the town will save by building at the playground site and being able to tie in to existing systems is much more than the "modest $25,000 to $35,000" that Moretown will spend on waterproofing, Gallup said.

Another resident expressed concern that the new town offices will cause increased water runoff. "How are we going to deal with the drainage?" he asked, to which Gallup responded that by utilizing existing parking the amount of pavement in the area isn't going to change, and that's what causes increased runoff.

When asked about maintenance costs, Gallup responded that they should be low, as the building is designed to be very energy efficient.

Energy costs for the building should also be low, so that "they could be covered by photovoltaic [energy]" Gallup said. "I think that's the next question, to be evaluated in a year or two," Gallup said, explaining that the town could build a solar array "basically anywhere, and connect it to the grid" to cover the town offices' energy costs.

In closing the meeting, Amadon and the rest of the Moretown Town Office Committee explained that while the $700,000 from the CDBG, which provides funding for towns to rebuild infrastructure above the floodplain, does comprise "a very significant part of the town's resources for funding" the new town offices, he said, the committee would still support the building and the site even without the grant.

"Prior to Irene we needed a new [town office]," Moretown Select Board chair Tom Martin said, and the grant "has given us the opportunity" to build one.

In closing, Amadon thanked his fellow board members, Maclay Architects, Erickson and the community "for an enormous amount of work and dedication," he said, and asked everyone to get out and vote on Tuesday, November 5.

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