Epsom to vote on building a new town hall in March

  • The current Epsom town hall is located in a strip mall just north of the Route 4 traffic circle. Geoff Forester / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Friday, January 05, 2018

Epsom voters will consider a proposal to build a new town hall in March.

The select board voted on Wednesday 3-0 to put a $899,000 warrant article on the ballot to build a two-story building on the town-owned land next to the police station.

Of the $899,000 – the cost of construction, plus contingencies – $500,000 would come from the town’s undesignated fund balance. Another $50,000 would come from a capital reserve fund earmarked for a new town hall. The balance, $349,000, would be raised by taxes, with an estimated tax impact of 82 cents per $1,000 in property value.

Harty said the town had about $2 million in its undesignated fund balance, and that its finance administrator had given the greenlight to the $500,000 figure.

Because the measure doesn’t involve a bond, it will require a simple majority to pass, instead of 60 percent approval.

Epsom, which has been renting space in a strip mall off of the traffic circle on Route 4 since 2010, has for years struggled to find a permanent home, with voters rejecting several proposals to renovate an existing building or build anew.

“As I’ve said a hundred times, we need to get out of this place,” select board chairman Don Harty said. “We need to stop renting. Renting is throwing money away.”

Two years ago, the town fell just 12 votes shy of passing a bond to build a new town hall. Harty originally hoped to revive basically the same proposal but on a smaller scale to save money.

A stipulation in the town’s lease, which ends in 2020, says the town can’t leave early unless they find a spot that’s at least as large as their current location. Harty had initially believed the town could credit space at the police station toward the square footage at the town hall, but Epsom’s attorneys decided the argument wouldn’t fly. The proposal on the ballot in March will be for a 4,500 square-foot structure, large enough to get the town out of its lease.

The select board has chosen Berwick Construction, out of Loudon, to do the job if voters approve the measure. At $835,739, Berwick was the lowest of four bids on the project.

The company also built Loudon’s new town hall, which Harty and several town employees visited.

“They built a beautiful building,” he said.

The town spent $39,876 on rent last year. The cost goes up by 3 percent each year.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)