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Gift of modular building could solve municipal offices stalemate


December 26, 2012
WHITEFIELD — A visit by three town officials — selectmen's assistant Judy Ramsdell, Police Chief Ed Samson, and Public Works Director Shawn White — to see a 60- by 60-foot steel-framed modular office building that the town has been offered at no cost by the Federal Corrections Institution in Berlin could resolve its indecision on where to locate its municipal offices.

The federal Bureau of Prisons used the sturdy structure temporarily during the just-opened facility's construction phase and has no further use for it.

Town officials have debated three courses of action over the last four years: to undertake costly repairs to its stately historic town hall; to purchase the quarters rented from Bob Styles in which the town's offices are now located, or to build brand-new municipal offices away from King's Square.

Following the officials' visit the modular office building, the board of selectmen agreed to accept the donation to the Town of Whitefield and to place it on the lot next to the Whitefield Fire and Rescue station to use for its municipal offices.

A public hearing has tentatively been scheduled on Jan. 7 to meet the procedural requirements of accepting such a donation. The plan would be to get the six 60-foot-long steel building trailered to the site and then have it shrink-wrapped for winter storage, according to the selectmen's minutes of both Dec. 13 and 17. White said estimates of moving the six 10- by 60-foot-long structure are in the $20,000 range.

A foundation would be poured in the spring complete with sally port, and the building set up. The police and fire departments plus the town's three-person office staff would be housed there.

The building is well made, fully handicapped accessible, and would come complete with office furniture, heat and air-conditioning, members of the Whitefield Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) learned at their Dec. 18 meeting. A full drive-out basement foundation with sally port, pitched roof, sprinklers, and other work would be required.

Construction could likely be completed by mid-summer 2013.

Voters will be asked at the March 12 town meeting to authorize the use of the Emergency Services Building Capital Reserve account to cover these costs from its $184,000 balance. Current thinking is that the work to be done would not completely drained the account.

After hearing an outline of this proposal, members of the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) Committee and the WDEDC in two separate meeting indicated they thought this a good solution to the town's building issues.

CIP chairman Ed Betz said that the price was right. Although disappointed that the facility would be located outside of King's Square, it otherwise sounded as though it would meet the town's needs, bringing together the town's emergency services.

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