Whately Town Hall project has opposition

WHATELY — Last-minute opposition is rising against the proposed $3.9 million Town Hall expansion as voters prepare to turn out at the polls on Tuesday to vote on a debt exclusion for the project.

Two Finance Committee members, Joseph Zewinski and Robert Fydenkevez, and a town resident, John Wroblewski, have submitted a letter of opposition to The Recorder, protesting the cost of the project. The three dissenters are asking their neighbors to vote “no” to Question 1, which asks residents to support the rehabilitation and expansion of the 1844 historic Town Hall on Chestnut Plain Road.

To pass, a majority vote is required. Voters at the annual town meeting have already approved the project, but the project requires the financial support of the override.

“It’s a crapshoot. The volume of money it will take is incredible,” said Fydenkevez. “This is a huge commitment in this economy. You’re asking a lot of a small town. At the end of the day, the concept is great, but the timing is poor.”

The three opponents state the cost is too high for a small community, but did not suggest any alternatives.

“I’m a taxpayer. My concern is that the price is not in line with other projects. Things could be done more efficiently and cost effective,” said Wroblewski of 59 Christian Lane.

Zewinski could not be reached for comment Thursday.

With five days left before the vote, the letter comes as a surprise as the seven-member Finance Committee had recommended the project to town meeting with only one dissenting vote.

Fydenkevez said he expressed his reservations throughout the process. Wroblewski also said he spoke out against the project at town meeting.

The election is the last time townspeople can have a final say on the project.

An overwhelming majority of voters already supported appropriating the money at town meeting in April and approved $50,000 per year of Community Preservation Act money for the next 20 years for the project.

According to the Municipal Building Committee and architects at Jones Whitsett Architects, the project would add 3,900 square feet to the building. It would include a two-story addition plus a basement that could be used for meeting space. The second-floor assembly hall would also be kept intact and be restored as the meeting place. It would also become fully accessible.

Proponents say the project would also eliminate many existing problems, like a lack of storage and a lack of elevators to provide access to the second floor, as well as rot and animal droppings in the attic.

The letter raises several questions on the project’s cost and completeness.

“$3,900,000 is too high and not all inclusive,” the letter reads.

According to the letter, the opponents argue “there are issues with the cost estimates: Experts said there is lead, asbestos, PCBs in ballasts and mouse and bat droppings — but no hazmat budget for removal. An interior door with trim is priced at $1,835 each, same door retail price is $473.”

The letter also argues that the project is taking away the CPA money, which is tax money.

The three men also rebuff the argument used to push the project forward — making the building fully accessible.

“Possible lawsuit and ADA accessibility as reasoning for this is wrong,” the letter states. “An elevator installed is $180,000 per estimates. Cost effective alternatives to this large scale proposal are possible.”

Ballot posts

Townspeople will also be asked to vote on nine uncontested seats.

∎  Paul Newlin is seeking another three-year term as selectman.

∎ Melanie Chorak is vying for a three-year term as assessor.

∎ Ronnie Williams is seeking a three-year term on the Board of Health.

∎ Donald Skroski is seeking a three-year term on the Whately School Committee.

∎ Robert Duda and Sheila Powers are running for three-year terms as library trustees. Lawrence Ashman is seeking a one-year term as trustee.

∎ Paul M. Fleuriel Jr. is vying for another one-year term as moderator.

∎ John LaSalle is vying for a one-year seat as elector under the will of Oliver Smith.

∎ Georgeann Dufault is seeking a three-year term on the Water Commission.

∎ There is an open three-year seat for the Cemetery Commission.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268. On Twitter, follow @RecorderKatMcK

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