Cogent points for Marion Town House alternatives
To the Editor:
Here are some cogent points in response to recent letters appearing in the local press on the important subject of the Marion Town House. More and more voters are becoming aware of the fruitful and open discussion of how to properly assess the larger number of options now available for our Town House and town facilities in general:
A recent article implied that potential private developers of the new building option at our ample VFW site might unduly benefit from the private renovation and development of the Marion Town House, rather than a renovation with public funds for continued town use. That could not be further from the truth. The sale of the Town House to a private developer with a well-constructed and supervised deed restriction to maintain the historic character of the building would yield significant benefits (i.e. “profit”) to Marion:
- $30,000+/year in tax revenue;
- 10 or so badly needed (and desired) nice, in-town condominiums for Marion empty-nesters, which also keeping local foot traffic – and residents – in our Village (also likely to provide more business to local establishments);
- Avoidance of risk to the town in known environmental mitigation needed and additional cost of unknown conditions in building, always a factor;
- Use of private versus government funding means a likely 25 percent lower building cost for the same product, plus possible efficiencies in project completion.
- Likely saving of $3,000,000 or significantly more, over the current municipal renovation schemes.
There should be no implication (even if unintended) that the proponents of the VFW “alternative approach” have any vested financial interest or intention of participating in any of this development of the Town House. They are advocating that the decision between renovating the Town House and building at the VFW site be made primarily by the voters of Marion, and that these voters of Marion first be given objective, independent cost information on the VFW-sited new building option and the alternative uses for the Town House. They, in short, have only the best interest of our lovely town in mind and otherwise could easily spend their time elsewhere. This also assumes the renovation now underway by the Town of the current VFW building for the much-awaited use by our senior citizens is completed in the near future, as well.
Lastly, the floor area (square foot) estimate for a suitable Town House at the VFW site (or any other viable site, for that matter) was not based on a cited “cubicle world” for 220 SF per employee (currently 18), but 330 SF +/- (50 percent more) which is quality space in the generous $500/SF range (6,000+ SF building, no land costs). This allows for modest conference/meeting rooms, foyers, code-required bathrooms and hallways; includes some multi-use space and individual offices each where required, and necessary accessible storage; capitalizes on having a big meeting room available nearby in the Music Hall and police station, and modernization/electronic storage of records plus another site for archival paper (such as Atlantis Drive).
Taxpayers are obligated to provide attractive, ample, healthy, accessible and safe workspace for their employees and conducting of town business. If a facility well over and above this level is desired, it is reasonable for additional funds to come from the private sector, and Marion residents I believe would step up if needed where there is a legitimate focus on this aspect.
In summary: the VFW option is rational, meets the desire for quality and comfort, and carefully balances needs with wants. The upcoming Town Meeting warrant article requesting an objective, independent assessment of the VFW option by an alternative, local committee is important to pass for the benefit of all Marion taxpayers. Our taxpayers deserve to know the cost of a reasonable new building option from an independent viewpoint, and to see some preliminary designs, so they can compare the VFW option to the cost to the proposed Town House renovation and make an informed decision.
Stephen J. Kokkins, P.E.