Selectmen want to renovate Town House, eliminate new build option from Town Meeting agenda

Mar 21, 2018

Members of Marion's Board of Selectmen have decided: they want to try to move forward with renovating the current Town House.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the board was running through the draft of the Town Meeting agenda with Town Administrator Paul Dawson. When Dawson got to articles 14 and 15, regarding designating $7,817,269 for renovating the Town House or $5,107,560 to build a new one, respectively, Selectman Norm Hills stopped him.

“I have something I want to say,” he said.

Reading from a prepared statement, Hills said he favors renovating the current Town House over building a new one on the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center property on Route 6.

“Marion is a town that appreciates and reuses our historic buildings,” he said. “Old is not useless…New Bedford, Newport, Rhode Island and Portland, Maine provide good examples of shortsighted decisions that lost town heritage and character. Once it is gone, it is gone forever.”

He argued that while building a new Town House may be cheaper, money is not the only factor in making decisions.

“If cost were most important, we would all be living in tiny houses, driving old cars and the harbor would be full of eight-foot row boats,” he said. “Quality, design aesthetics and pride of ownership are historically important to Marion residents.”

Select Chair Jody Dickerson agreed, and said the money saved wasn’t enough to make up for what the town would be giving up.

“This building has been the fabric of the community for many years. It’s the heart of town government,” he said. “I’ve heard from many people that they want to keep it here. I think [moving the Town House] would destroy the Town of Marion. I really do. Just to save $1.5 million is ridiculous.”

With that, the board removed the request for $5,107,560 for the new Town House from the Town Meeting warrant.

After the meeting adjourned, resident and selectman candidate John Waterman approached Dickerson, angry that the board made the decision.

“That decision should have been left to the voters,” he said.

Residents will vote whether or not to approve the $7,817,269 for the renovations on Town Meeting floor.