Bond hearing for co-located town offices building set for Feb. 10

January 22, 2014
WHITEFIELD — Ed Betz, chairman of the Capital Improvement Program committee, told members of the Whitefield Economic Development Corp. at its quarterly meeting on Wednesday night that its members favor the construction of an 40-foot-wide by 80-foot-long Municipal or Town Offices Building on town-owned land next to the Fire-Emergency-Services station on Route 116 South.

The selectmen have scheduled a bond hearing at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 10, when details of the plan will be presented and residents can questions and give feedback. The budget hearing will follow at 7 p.m.

The upper floor would be made up of modular units, Betz explained, and the lower or basement floor would be "stick-built" by local people skilled in the various construction trades.

There are two plans for this building.

One is for a two-story building to house town offices, police department with sally port, and a fire-rescue department.

The other plan is for nearly the same building, but in which about half the basement floor would boast a 16-foot-high ceiling, designed to accommodate a multi-purpose community room — 36.5-foot wide by 38-foot-long — to permit active recreational activities for both children and adults, such as volleyball, yoga, or aerobic exercises. The town's Recreation Department must now schedule its indoor sports activities in either the Dalton or Twin Mountain town buildings, since typically the Whitefield School is not available.

A small kitchen and two bathrooms would also be included, allowing community suppers and senior citizen activities to be held there.

The community room would have its own separate ground-floor entrance, and there would not be a staircase or elevator connecting it to the upstairs municipal offices or work areas.

The proposed bond for the building that includes the multi-purpose community room would be for $975,000.

Betz believes that using town monies on hand in special purpose accounts plus some foundation support combined with state emergency management dollars and the proceeds from the sale of Cherry Mountain woodlands, once the source of town water, to the U. S. Forest Service to be added to the WMNF could make the bond payments equivalent to the rent payments and heating costs of the downtown building that the town is now renting from Bob Stiles. The proposed new building would be well insulated and heated by wood chips or pellets.

It would also provide far better security for town employees, including a second exit, just in case a lawbreaker with evil intentions was ever an issue.

The selectmen will decide after the Feb. 3 bond hearing whether or not to present the bond for a vote at the March 11 town meeting.

Betz and the WEDC also discussed the thorny issue of boxcar storage.

The selectmen, he explained, have sent letters to both Governor Maggie Hassan and DOT Commissioner Christopher Clement asking that the railroad tracks from Wing Road to Jiffy Mart be taken up to create a multi-purpose trail. The town has suggested a counter proposal to its previous letter that asked that all rail lines coming into the village be discontinued. The selectmen also requested that all stored boxcars be padlocked to prevent vagrants from living inside them and also that gaps be left at intervals between the boxcars, allowing wildlife to reach the John's River. The few boxcars stored on the tracks near Jiffy Mart are state-owned.

The lessee, the New Hampshire Central Railroad of North Stratford, has eight years left on its lease contract. The state renewed it two years ago without asking input from any of the affected towns.

In their letter, the selectmen emphasized the economic benefits that would accrue to Whitefield as well as other North Country towns if these rails were removed, opening up a corridor all the way from North Haverhill to Whitefield, allowing snowmobilers to continue on to north to Pittsburg or east to Gorham.

The annual election of officers was held: president-secretary-treasurer, Sam Chase; vice president, Frank Mai; and five Directors — Scott Burns, Joe Elgosin, Everett Kennedy, Dick Mallion, and Gerry Pons. Elgosin cast the single "no" vote.

The next WEDC meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, in the town offices.

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