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Date: Fri 22-Jan-1999

Date: Fri 22-Jan-1999

Publication: Bee

Author: STEVEB

Quick Words:

space-needs-Edmond-Town-Hall

Full Text:

Town Hall Bd of Managers Weighs In On Office Space

BY STEVE BIGHAM

For months, the Edmond Town Hall Board of Managers has been watching quietly

as the town discussed its municipal space needs and tried to find a solution.

On Wednesday, the board joined the discussion.

Board member Marie Sturdevant told the town's municipal space needs committee

that the Board of Managers has felt out of the loop as far as municipal space

needs planning has gone.

"The board has not included us in any of their studies," Mrs Sturdevant said.

"We are trying to come up with our five-year plan, but we don't know what you

have in mind."

For example, she said, renovations in the Alexandria Room kitchen are very

high on her board's list of things to do. However, kitchen renovations are

down at the bottom of the space needs committee list. Fire Marshal George

Lockwood reiterated earlier this month that cooking is not allowed in the

Alexandria Room. As it is currently set up, the kitchen does not meet fire

code, he said.

Mrs Sturdevant said she is concerned with the way the town hall is being

described in the press. It sounds like the building is ready to be condemned,

she said. Not so, she added. The building is in obvious need of some major

code updates and more space, but it has not been neglected, she said.

Mrs Sturdevant said her board would be "very receptive" to a plan to add on as

much as 23,000 square feet of space to Edmond Town Hall, something the

municipal space needs committee is seriously considering.

"We could add on out through the back of the building, similar to what they

did on the library. That way, you preserve the front," Mrs Sturdevant said.

"We have the lower parking and more property behind the [Hook & Ladder]

firehouse."

The Board of Managers is also concerned that town offices could be moved out

of Edmond Town Hall if a new town government facility is built. However,

committee member Bob Hall assured Mrs Sturdevant that the idea of moving town

offices out of the building was a worst-case scenario. The space needs

committee appears to be leaning toward an addition at Edmond Town Hall.

Committee member Charles Nanavaty certainly is. He favors a plan that adds

23,500 square feet of space to Edmond Town Hall, renovates Town Hall South for

police, and provides a new structure for the Hook & Ladder Fire Company. The

estimated cost: just under $19 million.

There are three other scenarios also being considered. One plan is similar to

the one Mr Nanavaty backs, while the other two call for the construction of a

new 25,000-square-foot facility with renovations and no addition to Edmond

Town Hall.

So when will the committee complete its year-long study and present a

recommendation to the Board of Selectmen?

"We're trying to find the end of the rainbow," Bill Brimmer, chairman of the

space needs committee, said.

Architect Rusty Malik made it clear once again Wednesday that Fairfield Hills'

Watertown Hall is not suitable for a school or town office building. He has

recommended the building be demolished at a cost of $1 million, which includes

asbestos abatement.

Hook & Ladder

The town is prepared to build a new Hook & Ladder building to replace the

failing structure behind Edmond Town Hall. However, the estimated $3.3 million

cost is a little high.

"[Members of Hook & Ladder] say it can be done much cheaper. They don't need

all this," noted First Selectman Herb Rosenthal.

A drop in the cost would be a big help to the town, especially when, overall,

planned municipal projects could cost as much as $20 million.

Possible sites for a new Hook & Ladder building include Queen Street (where

the town just purchased a strip of land from the state), Route 302 (just west

of The Pleasance) and at the ambulance garage on Route 25.

"The ambulance garage would be a great site. It's very central, but it's

probably not big enough," Mr Rosenthal said.

The committee agreed it needed more comments from Hook & Ladder

representatives, who have so far been tight-lipped about what they want.

Mrs Sturdevant said having a firehouse behind the town hall is extremely

dangerous.

A New Police Facility?

Police Chief James Lysaght said he is pleased with the prospect of a renovated

police department at Town Hall South. However, he believes it would be more

cost effective for the town to put up a new building, which could also house

other public safety facilities.

"Even with a renovation of Town Hall South, there is still insufficient land

on the site. Parking is a problem," Chief Lysaght said. "You need an area for

the fleet, an area for the public and an area for the working people there.

You also need an area for an impound lot."

The police chief suggested it might be cost effective for the town to purchase

the nearby Pleasance property and additional six acres behind Town Hall South

from Bee publisher R. Scudder Smith. The land is currently for sale for $1.2

million.

As Chief Lysaght points out, the land is centrally located, lies at the

intersection of two major roads and has access roads in and out.

"You're not going to find a better location inside of Newtown for public

safety," he said.

Newtown resident Ruby Johnson also spoke, urging the panel to reconsider

purchasing the Fairfield Hills property. Mrs Johnson has led a petition drive

to convince Mr Rosenthal to seriously consider buying the central property of

the former state mental institute. She sees Newtown growing and believes

having that choice land will serve the town well in the future.