Voice your opinion on the Town House on March 1

Feb 20, 2018

To the Editor:

Citizens of Marion will be asked in a public hearing at the Music Hall on March 1, 2018 to support the renovation of the existing Town House. Short on maintenance, and not originally designed to serve as a town administration building, it needs a lot of work. I agreed to serve on the building committee that the Board of Selectmen appointed to study whether it should continue to be used as our Town House. Our committee and our architects have completed an in-depth study of the old building and determined that it is structurally sound and can serve.

But how well can it serve? Is it possible to make an 1870s school building into an attractive and efficient Town House for Marion in 2019? A careful look at the renovation plans by T2 Architects shows that you can. Credit our critics for forcing us to recognize that the existing building is larger than we need with the town facing so many other expensive projects in the near future. Our plan calls for the demolition of the octagonal annex (almost half of the entire structure) at the rear of the original building. In the proposed layout, departments are grouped for efficient operation and space is available for a few additional staff if needed. Space is provided for state-mandated paper record storage and other storage in the waterproofed existing basement. High efficiency heating and air conditioning equipment, electrical and telephone equipment rooms, and the automatic sprinkler system for fire safety are also located there. The entire building will be well insulated and equipped with new windows. It will be made fully accessible for the physically handicapped. The result is an historic building of reduced size, much easier to maintain, yet having the monumental character that marks our town’s center.

After serving the town 128 years the building is overdue for renovation. The cost estimate for the project is detailed and complete. The total cost for the building’s transformation into a unique asset is between 26 cents and 31 cents per thousand dollars on the annual tax rate. With reasonable care the renovated building should easily serve for fifty years. I feel that Marion would be diminished by the loss of this icon. Please come to the public hearing at the Music Hall on March 1st to make your opinion known.

Bill Saltonstall

Member, Town House Building Committee