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Joyce Endee

Littleton considers new space for town offices

September 23, 2021
LITTLETON — The Littleton Select Board has begun to consider options after discovering that a building lease agreement for the town offices was month-to-month, rather than an annual arrangement.

According to town manager Jim Gleason, both the property owner and town officials mistakenly believed the lease agreement was set to expire in 2023.

When the mistake was discovered, property owner Bank of New Hampshire drafted a five-year building lease agreement, which Gleason presented to Littleton Selectmen at the Sept. 13 board meeting.

The town had been paying $8,100 per year to lease the 4,300 square-foot second-floor office suite above Bank of NH on Main Street in Littleton. Under the new lease agreement, the town would be expected to pay $43,140 a year - a nearly 431 percent increase.

Additionally, the town would be 100 percent responsible for all building repairs, noted Gleason.

"Maybe at $100, I could see us spending some money for the office. But at $43,000, the door handles are not ADA Compliant, we don't have a crash bar, and there are so many things the fire chief is going to want," said the town manager.

Gleason continued, "If we hold our accounts with the financial institution and aggregate and if the tenants remain, then we basically do all of our banking with the bank and they'll give us a 20% discount, which could lower that annual rate to $34,512. If we were to finance or lease something and a bank had a better interest rate than the Bank of NH, this [lease] would tie us to the Bank of NH, which is not in the citizens' best interest. While we might get a low release upfront, it could end up costing the citizens much longer on the significant finance side."

Gleason also noted that if town officials decided to terminate early, they would still be responsible for the rest of the lease under the new lease terms.

He said, "I think we are over a barrel. Yes, we don't have to worry about today. But at the same time, do we necessarily need to tie into a five-year commitment? There's an opportunity to look at some options."

One possible option is the former Family Dollar building on Meadow Street. At 8,200 square feet, it could provide nearly double the space for administrative offices and potentially house the Select Board meetings, which typically occur at the Community Center. Gleason also noted that relocating into a larger footprint could offer more parking and eliminate additional rental expenses.

"I think it would be in our best interest to go with a two-year lease, with an option to renew for an additional two years with six months' notice. That would give us time to determine whether the Family Dollar or another site is feasible for the community," stated the town manager.

While speaking about the lease details, Gleason said, "I had issues with the payment plan, the length of it and the fact that they were trying to tie us down so that in theory we couldn't do business with anyone else. It started as discussions with the bank, but when I got the lease it wasn't from the bank. It was from an attorney."

Gleason told the Select Board that the town attorney would further negotiate lease terms with the bank's representative and that the lease had already been paid to the end of the year. No leases were signed during last week's Select Board meeting, and Gleason said they still had time to negotiate and consider alternatives before the Jan. 1, 2022 deadline.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Garnett HIll
Varney Smith
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