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Whately will hold straw poll on future of its town hall

Whately voters approved $3.9 milllon, as well as Community Preservation funds over the net 10 years, toward upgrading and maintaining the Whately Town Hall, one of the oldest in the state. Recorder file photo

Whately voters approved $3.9 milllon, as well as Community Preservation funds over the net 10 years, toward upgrading and maintaining the Whately Town Hall, one of the oldest in the state. Recorder file photo Purchase photo reprints »

WHATELY — Whately residents will not only cast their ballots for president in today’s election, they will also vote on how they would like to consolidate town offices.

Outside the polling area in the town hall, residents will be asked by the Municipal Building Committee to participate in a straw poll. On a post card, residents will have two options to choose from — renovating and adding an addition onto the existing town hall or constructing a new building. Another option allows residents to opt out of the choice if they are unfamiliar with the issue or believe they do not have enough information.

The building committee decided to conduct the poll to find out how the community would like to see the future of its historic town hall.

“We want to feel out the town as to what direction they are leaning,” Town Administrator Lynn Sibley said. “We’d hate to move forward on a renovation and find out the people don’t want it.”

The building committee began devising options for the town hall building in the summer with the help of Margo Jones Architects of Greenfield. For $28,000, Jones agreed to come up with a feasibility study of what the town needs for the present and future and how it can unite its offices.

The town offices have been split between the town hall and the Center School since 2001.

The selectmen, the town administrator, town clerk and Whately Historical Society meets in the Center School, while the zoning and planning boards and tax assessor conduct business at the town hall.

The town hall has a second floor that fails to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, an inadequate foundation, inadequate insulation in roof, walls and floors, leaky, single-pane windows and rat and animal droppings in the attic.

To reunite offices and improve the town hall’s infrastructure, Jones proposed four options.

The first option is a $2 million renovation that would keep the space at its current 4,746 square feet. Renovations would include new restrooms and an elevator, septic and paving improvements, and a new selectmen’s meeting room.

The second option is a $2.75 million renovation project that will add on an extra 2,770 square feet for more offices, including a selectmen’s meeting room and a basement, where a 770-square-foot mechanical room could be placed. It would have a meeting hall, but cut the capacity from 200 people to 70 people. Renovations will be the same as the first option.

The third option, at a cost of $3 million, adds 3,400 square feet to the existing building. It would add office space to the first floor and second floor and install new restrooms and an elevator, add septic and paving and a new selectmen’s meeting room. It would also increase the mechanical space to 1,000 square feet. It keeps the historic 200-person second-floor meeting hall untouched.

The last option would to be to build a 7,500-square-foot town hall for the price tag of $3.1 million.

The straw poll is the first step in the building committee’s information campaign. At the town meeting in April, residents will decide what direction to take. In April 2014, they will vote to fund the final design plan.

Polls are open today from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Town Hall on Chestnut Plain Road.

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