Canterbury asking voters to fix town offices – and hole in the basement

  • On a 10-degree day last winter, town administrator Ken Folsom said he came into the town office basement to find the foundation had a hole in it - the stones had fallen out. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury town administrator Ken Folsom descends into the old basement in the Sam Lake House - the town offices - on Wednesday. Town officials are asking voters to approve $400,000 to renovate and rebuild the space. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • If approved by Canterbury voters, the old portion of the Sam Lake House would be removed and replaced with a new, slightly expanded building.  Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • A rendering shows what the new Canterbury town offices are expected to look like if town residents vote to spend $400,000 on the project.  Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • The Canterbury town office building has a crack where electrical wires are screwed in. The Sam Lake House, left to the town in 1941, has several deficiencies the town is proposing be repaired with a renovation and partial re-building. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Canterbury's town office building originally was built around 1900, and the front portion was added in the 1980's. Now, the town wants to upgrade the oldest part of the building. Elodie Reed—Monitor staff

  • Hay bales weighing down plastic are placed around the exterior of the Sam Lake House, which, due to poor insulation, gets chilly for Canterbury town officials who work there. Elodie Reed photos / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 3/1/2017 8:50:16 PM

It’s never a good day when the basement has a hole in it.

On a sub-freezing Sunday morning last year, Canterbury town administrator Ken Folsom made a visit to the Sam Lake House , where the town offices are. Someone called and said the water wasn’t working at the adjacent Parrish House.

Descending the narrow, steep stairs to the dirt cellar, Folsom found the problem: some of the stone foundation had crumbled, leaving a sizable gap for 10-degree air to come in and freeze the water lines.

“You could literally look up and see the sky,” Folsom said.

That day, Folsom found spare insulation and plugged up the hole. Town officials are hoping for a more permanent fix for this and other building deficiencies when they ask voters to approve $400,000 at town meeting to renovate and rebuild the Sam Lake House.

The project

The building, donated to the town by Sam Lake in his 1941 will, is part turn-of-the-century Cape Cod house, part 1980s addition.

It’s the older portion of the building – the one above the dirt, (temporarily drafty) basement – that presents the most issues, Folsom said.

“We assume there is lead paint on the siding,” he said. Hay bales currently sit atop plastic around the base of the town offices to help keep in some heat, and a large crack appears where electrical lines are screwed into the side of the building.

Folsom said there’s also the issue of space. As municipal staff positions have been added over the years, offices have grown increasingly cramped. Administrative assistant Jan Stout’s office doubles as a kitchen, for instance, since she has a microwave and coffee maker near her desk.

There’s currently no separate, private space for meetings with personnel or welfare clients, and files are stored in the less-than-accessible basement of the newer building portion. (Squirrels got into the old payroll and other records when they were upstairs).

“It’s cozy,” Folsom said.

The Canterbury select board formed the Sam Lake House Renovation Committee in the fall of 2014 to upgrade the building. Over the course of two years, contractors have volunteered cost estimates for the project, which includes removing the old portion of the building and replacing it with a larger, newer version.

“That will keep the historic feel to it as a turn-of-the-century Cape Cod structure,” Folsom said.

To pay for the $400,000 project, town officials propose using $161,000 from the Sam Lake Capital Reserve fund, $21,000 from the Sam Lake Trust, and the remaining $218,000 in bonds.

If approved, Folsom said the Sam Lake House renovation will need to go out for a bid this spring for construction, in order to be completed by November 2017. A public hearing is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Canterbury meetinghouse.

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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