Whately approves funding for Town Hall building
The open houses will be held simultaneously at the Town Hall, Center School and Western Massachusetts Regional Library System buildings on Jan. 7, beginning at 4 p.m. and running until 7. Recorder file photo Purchase photo reprints »
WHATELY — The town passed its first major hurdle toward rehabilitating and expanding one of the state’s oldest town hall buildings still in use.
At Tuesday’s annual town meeting, voters supported the $3.9 million project to preserve, expand and rehabilitate the 1844 Town Hall on Chestnut Plain Road. The vote was 70 to 19, the required two-thirds minimum.
Townspeople also agreed to provide $50,000 of Community Preservation Act money per year for the next 20 years for the project.
“It’d be a real pity to let this go. We need to make this happen,” said Lisa Moore of Whately.
The final step is for townspeople to head to the polls to vote on a Proposition 21/2 debt exclusion to borrow the $3.9 million, at the annual election on June 10 at the Town Hall.
If approved, construction would be finished by July 1, 2015, and the town could move in the following Sept. 1.
The project led by the Municipal Building Committee has been in the works since the fall of 2011.
“We want to build a building that is right for 2015 and right for 2066,” Selectman Jonathan Edwards said. “I don’t want to have the Municipal Building Committee of 2066 and the Board of Selectmen of 2066 scratching their heads saying ‘what are we going to do?’ We want to plan for the future.”
The project would revamp the town hall and address existing issues like inadequate insulation in the roof, walls and floors, inadequate foundation framing to support the structure, leaky single-pane windows, bat and bird droppings in the attic and an unusable second floor.
Major rehabilitation changes would be the restoration of the wooden windows, repairs to the slate roof, and renovation of the meeting hall woodwork to maintain its historic character. The restoration allows the town to use CPA funds out of the historic preservation account, which would amount to about $1 million over the next two decades.
Most importantly, Edwards stressed, the building would become fully accessible with elevator access to the second floor and basement, fully accessible restrooms, handicapped accessible stage in the auditorium and the addition of two restrooms.
There would be about 25 parking spaces at the Town Hall, alleviating traffic on Chestnut Plain Road and at the Whately Inn.
The town operating budget approved totaled $4,531,629.
Total education costs amounted to $2,612,270. Frontier cost $899,072. Whately Elementary cost $1,555,166. Franklin County Technical School cost $133,732. Smith Vocational cost $24,300.
Townspeople approved $125,648 for its share of the South County Emergency Medical Service.
In other business, townspeople approved:
∎ $2,400 of CPA money for the Whately Historical Society to digitize oral histories.
∎ $4,748 of CPA money for repairs to the Frontier Regional School tennis courts
∎ $23,800 for replacement windows in the S. White Dickinson Library.
∎ $12,550 to update the town bylaw books and create an online version.
∎ $16,110 for additional exterior lighting at the Whately Elementary School
∎ $20,000 for a transfer station repair project
∎ $60,000 for an emergency generator and wiring at the Whately Elementary School.
∎ $11,000 to update the current digitized maps and put maps and property record cards online
∎ $8,700 to replace the barrier gate and install a barrier fence by Herlihy Park.
∎ $5,000 to install a foundation for donated dugouts at Herlihy Park.
∎ $155,000 for a dump truck with a sander and plow for the Highway Department.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: email@example.com, 413-772-0261 ext. 268 or @RecorderKatMcK