Woolwich proposes town office expansion
WOOLWICH — When the Woolwich Town Office was built in 1980, only one staff person worked in the building. Since then, the town’s staff has grown to three — and sometimes four — employees.
So town officials propose that voters approve an addition to the building on Nequasset Road, at an estimated cost of $1.2 million, to provide a registration office for vehicles and taxes, an office for Town Administrator Lynette Eastman, a shared office for the Woolwich assessing agent and codes enforcement officer, and a meeting room in a new daylight basement.
The Planning Board will hold the first of two informational meetings about the proposed expansion, starting at 7: 30 p. m. today at the town hall.
A public hearing on the proposal is set for April 2.
Eastman said Monday that the Board of Selectmen has not yet determined whether it will take the proposal to the May 9 annual town meeting — but selectmen are sure, as are town staff, that the additional space is sorely needed.
David King, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Monday that while “It’s never a good time to spend money, I think we can get the best bang for the taxpayers’ money right now. We’re hoping the voters will see it that way.”
In addition to her duties as town administrator, Eastman serves as the town’s General Assistance administrator, and frequently finds herself conducting those confidential interviews within earshot of others, she said.
“We should have a confidential area to go to,” she said. “And we have three service windows, but only room for two desks for the ladies trying to work out of a relatively small office.”
The 48-by-75-foot addition would be accessible to people with disabilities and large enough to accommodate the annual town meetings, which have traditionally been held at the Woolwich Central School. With the new school under construction last year and this year, however, those meetings were moved to the Old Nequasset Meetinghouse.
The Board of Selectmen previously approved spending $ 7,000 for engineering and architect services, and the board issued a Request for Proposals, ultimately selecting architect Dave Matero and Casco Bay Engineering, according to King.
“We picked David because he was local and because he seemed to understand that we don’t need a building that makes a statement, we just need a building that’s functional and somewhat attractive,” King said Monday. “We’re trying to build a building that will last the town 50 years. I think we can do it.”
King is scheduled to meet with representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural and Community Development program on Monday to discuss a potential government-guaranteed loan to finance the project at less than 4 percent, he said.
Town officials have already held preliminary meetings on the project with the Planning Board.
King said the time is right for the addition, with the town set to pay off its last payment on its only outstanding debt — a fire truck.
“Then we owe absolutely nobody any money,” he said. “With contractors as hungry as they are and the lumber yards as hungry as they are, it’s actually a great time to build. This is something that, at some point in time, is going to have to be done. This isn’t frivolous spending. If we don’t do it now, somebody in the future is going to have to do it at a much higher cost.”