Marion Town House decision to be delayed

By Tanner Harding | Oct 18, 2016

Marion — The Marion Town House Building Committee will request to pass over an agenda item at Fall Town Meeting, it was decided at Tuesday ’s Selectmen meeting.

The article asks residents to appropriate $475,976 to complete the construction design for renovating the Town House, including bidding services. However, after the town’s Finance Committee expressed its hesitance at endorsing the the plan at an Oct. 7 meeting, many other residents spoke up with concerns.

The renovation plans are estimated to cost $11.9 million, and many residents don’t want to spend the money.

The Finance Committee wasn’t sure that residents really ever agreed to the project.

After the Oct. 7 meeting, the Building Committee convened again and decided that, due to a lack of public support, it would withdraw the request at Town Meeting.

“We still support this plan,” Building Committee Chair Bob Raymond said. “But we’re not at a point where the public will support the article.”

In recent weeks, many ideas have been suggested about how to minimize the project’s costs, and the committee thinks reducing the size of the Town House is the only real way to do that.

“One of the points we’ve made was that no matter what we do, we’re looking at a multimillion dollar project,” Raymond said. “The real way to save money is to build less. Maybe we don’t have a meeting room.”

The committee has also looked at options that would renovate only the front part of the building.

“There would be smaller offices and other compromises, but it would be worth exploring if we listen to what we’re hearing from the town,” Raymond said.

Selectmen Chair Jody Dickerson was not in favor of cutting out the meeting room from the plan or for reducing the size too much.

“We meet all over town. It should be in one place,” he said. “I really suggest that the meeting places are not cut.”

Selectman Steve Cushing agreed that the space would need to be big enough for a meeting place, storage and offices.

“The idea of meeting, storing and working in all different locations doesn’t make sense in any job,” he said. “It’d drive you nuts.”

The Selectmen and the Building Committee agree that they don’t want to see the current Town House knocked down, but acknowledged that if it would be less expensive to do that and build new, then it is an option that needs to be explored for the public.

With the vote now off the table for Fall Town Meeting, Selectmen suggested that the Building Committee take the next few months to reach out to residents, educate them on options, listen to opinions and possibly revisit the issue at Annual Town Meeting in the spring.

“I think a lot of people have a lot of questions,” Dickerson said. “I think your plans are good plans. I want to be able to sell it to the townspeople.”

However, the Selectmen and Building Committee acknowledged that the longer the project is put off, the more expensive it gets.

“The price isn’t going to get smaller [by waiting],” Cushing said, “even if we do reduce the size.”

Regardless, everyone agreed something had to be done.

“We’re way beyond doing nothing,” Selectman Steve Gonsalves said.

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