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Whately Town Hall renovation addition planning back to drawing board

WHATELY — Will Whately’s town hall expansion plan go back to the drawing board or just go away?

After 2½ years of pushing for a $3.9 million town hall renovation and expansion, the Municipal Building Committee was unexpectedly stopped in its tracks Tuesday when voters said “no” to the needed tax cap debt exclusion.

“We have no plans,” said Jonathan Edwards, chairman of the committee. “I can’t begin to tell you what the next steps are.”

Selectmen’s Chairman Paul Newlin said he wrote to the building committee to suggest the selectmen and committee have a meeting soon to re-evaluate where they stand right now.

“We will be discussing it,” Newlin said. “We have to deal with it. That building needs repairs and improvements. We have to consider all our options and reconsider a lot of what we’ve already considered.”

One of the options may be a reduced renovation. Whatever the town chooses, it would still cost $2 million to install an elevator to make the building handicapped accessible.

“I don’t think doing nothing is an option. We need to make sure things are handicapped accessible and we need to centralize town functions,” said Newlin of the 170-year-old clapboard building on Chestnut Plain Road.

Currently, town offices are split between the town hall and the former Center School.

The main reason town voters rejected the project, according to Newlin, was they felt it was too expensive. Sixty percent of the voters rejected the plan.

The building committee was caught off guard with the results after town meeting members supported the project idea four times since 2011.

“I don’t think we expected the results the way they turned around. We weren’t ready for that,” said Paul Fleuriel Jr., a committee member.

Originally, the town had considered several options for the future of its historic 1844 town hall.

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