Proposal to move town offices to Opera House off ballot
Option to buy parking lot also removed from ballot
January 27, 2010
LITTLETON–The most controversial of articles on the town warrant, the proposal to spend $600,000 to move the town offices back into the Opera House, was removed from the ballot.
The decision was made by the Board of Selectmen last Friday during a meeting in the Heald Room of the Community House after hearing from residents during the bond hearing earlier in the week as well as the regularly scheduled board meeting on Wednesday.
"There was enough discussion Monday night to recommend go ahead and remove the article," said Town Manager Chuck Connell.
The deciding factor was news received Wednesday afternoon that Laconia Savings Bank, the owner of the building in which the town offices are currently held, was willing to extend the lease agreement for the town offices for an additional five to seven years under the current pricing system, under which the town pays around $12,000 a year for the 4,000 square foot space.
Though the news had come in a few hours before last Wednesday's meeting in the form of an e-mail to town officials, Board Chairman Eddy Moore refrained from making a final decision until news of the bank's decision was confirmed.
"Since we have the lease extension I say we go ahead and drop it and just put in chairs and curtains," Moore said.
Part of the plan in the warrant article was to pay for chairs and a new curtain for the performance venue in the Opera House. That will now be its own warrant article, asking the voters to approve spending $30,000--$10,000 for chairs and $20,000 for a curtain for the stage.
Resident Mary Daly suggested to the board they create a committee to formally study the building and present a report to the selectmen on proposed uses and tenants in the building.
"This should be done before any future bond vote," Daly said.
Moore rejected the suggestion and said there is already an Opera House Committee charged with that very task.
"I think you need new blood," Daly said. "They get us into this."
Also withdrawn from the ballot was a proposal to buy a small parking lot located on Green Street behind the Littleton Diner. Currently the town is in a 30-year lease for the small, four-space lot. The proposal, to buy the lot for around $250,000, would have saved the town $180,000 in interest on the property because of current lower interest rates. The proposal has been on the warrant for several years and rejected by the voters each time. Selectmen suspected it was because residents didn't understand the reasons behind the purchase.
Board members, by a vote of two to one, took the proposal off the warrant because they want as little controversy on the ballot as possible. They don't want to confuse voters and jeopardize the possibility of the passage of a warrant article on the school ballot to pay for a new career and technical center.