Budget committee nixes $899,000 Epsom town office proposal

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

Monitor staff
Friday, January 12, 2018

Epsom won’t be building a new town office this year after all.

Residents will likely still get to vote in March on the $899,000 proposal to build a new office next to the police station. But because state law won’t allow a town to spend more than 10 percent over what its budget committee has recommended for the year, the plan is moot, at least for now.

The committee was split 5-5 on Thursday about whether or not to recommend the town office warrant article. (A tie means the article isn’t recommended.) They approved all other articles, for a total $3,946,724 in approved expenditures, Epsom finance administrator Nancy Wheeler. But plus 10 percent, that’s still $504,328 less than what the town would need to spend on a new building.

“I’m disappointed for the town,” said select board chairman Don Harty, who had crafted the proposal. The town has been without a permanent home for years – they rent space in a strip mall on Route 4 – and has defeated several plans to build anew or renovate an existing building.

“Whether or not they would have supported this (plan) – I don’t know – but it’s very unfortunate that because of these five budget committee members, they’re not going to have the opportunity to chose,” said.

He added the move would further hurt the town’s standing with contractors.

“The town has a lousy reputation for turning projects down. And after this fiasco, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to get bidders on future jobs, in my opinion,” he said.

Harty said the select board would probably vote Tuesday to put the town office proposal on the ballot anyway, to gauge community support. He said technically, the budget committee could reconvene and change their vote before Jan. 25. But he said he doubted that would happen.

Joni Kitson, a member of the budget committee who voted against the plan, said she just couldn’t in good faith put her stamp of approval on the idea.

“There was too many deficiencies for what I could recommend. We were told it was a conceptual plan, that more changes could be made, but I saw way too many deficiencies,” she said.

She said the building needed to have extra exits to comply with code, but also complained about such design choices as putting office space and file cabinets on the second floor.

“Files as you can know weigh a lot when you start putting stuff in them,” she said. “There has to be extra support in the floor for that.”

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

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