July 15 Public Hearing Notes: New Town Office Alternatives

Town of Cranberry Isles
Municipal Advisory Commission
Public Hearing Notes
Islesford Neighborhood House
Friday July 15, 2011

I. Call To Order: 5:00 P.M.

II. Introductions by Ron Axelrod:
Introduced the MAC members present and Town Staff who worked on the report for the new town office.

Explained the purpose of the report was a directive from the Town Selectmen following the annual Town Meeting in March. At the March Town meeting voters rejected a warrant article that would have allowed the Town to borrow up to $200,000 to construct a new town office addition at the Islesford fire station. The main reason stated for rejecting the proposal in March was that the Town had not yet developed a solid plan for what was actually needed for new Town offices. Voters wanted a clearer understanding what the program and space needs were before committing to borrowing or appropriating money to build new offices for town government.

The Selectmen directed the Municipal Advisory Commission to evaluate what the program and space needs were and to study the various location options for new offices.

The MAC evaluated the space needs and program needs for the Town Office staff. The administrative needs of the Town have grown over the years. The current Town Offices are 475 sq. ft., with offices for the Administrative Assistant, Town Clerk/Treasurer and Deputy Town Clerk/Treasurer. Additional space would be needed for file cabinets/storage and a bathroom. The MAC report concluded that 550 sq. ft. would be adequate for currant Town needs and for the foreseeable future. Meeting space was not included in the space needs since there is currently adequate meeting space available on both islands to hold public meetings (Islesford Neighborhood House, Great Cranberry Community Center, Cranberry Historical Society). After reviewing the report at their June meeting, The Board of Selectmen have stated that they would like to see an additional 200 sq. ft. for some meeting space at a new Town Office facility, for a total of 750 Sq. ft.

The MAC evaluated several possible locations (properties and buildings) that the Town currently owns. The study narrowed the potential locations down to four possibilities: 550 sq. ft. addition to the Islesford fire station on Maple Avenue; renovation of 630 sq. ft. in the old Islesford fire house behind the Islesford School; co-locating with the school at the Longfellow school on Great Cranberry; and long-term lease at the current location on Islesford. These locations could meet the Town’s needs for adequate office space needs and are centrally located for town residents.

Other locations on Islesford and Great Cranberry were deemed undesirable or inadequate locations such as the GCI gravel pit, (too far from dock) Islesford transfer station (too far from dock), Town Field on Islesford (deed restriction for buildings), Great Cranberry Fire House (not Town owned and use is limited to annual Town Meeting).

The worksheets summarizing 15 year long term capital, lease, and heating costs were explained of three alternatives. The Longfellow School location was not considered as it would need further evaluation in conjunction with the on-going renovations for the school use and was not considered to be an improvement in the near-term when weighed against the other possibilities. The Maple Ave site and the old fire house site were approximately the same in terms of costs. Borrowing up to $150,000 for either project would result in a total capital cost of $199,710 with interest over a 15year period. However this would have to be modified if the Town opts to build 750 sq. ft. at the Maple Ave site. The borrowing would likely be approximately $210,240 based on a $160,000 capital cost. A long-term lease at the current Town Office site would be less expensive over the 15 year term (5-year lease with renewal options), which would be $125,000.

III. Audience Communications:
Do the Selectmen support these four locations identified in the report?
The Selectmen have stated that they prefer a 750 sq. ft. addition to the Islesford Fire Station on Maple Ave. They feel that this would be the best alternative for long-term municipal needs.

Are there any legal issues relative to co-locating a Town Office with a school?
The MAC received legal advice from the Maine Municipal Association regarding this issue. There is currently no legal restriction or prohibition on co-locating a municipal facility within a school (i.e. Town Offices). There is no Maine statute that would prohibit it. The Town of Tremont has its municipal town offices co-located with its elementary school, for example.

Did the MAC consult with the current landlord regarding a long-term lease?
The owner of the building where the Town Offices are currently located was asked about the possibility of selling the building to the Town, or entering into a long-term lease with the Town. The owner was not interested in selling but would do a long-term lease (5 year lease term). The cost projections for this include an escalation amount over a 15 year period (assumes that the Town will renew the lease over that period of time.

Would the lease of the current building be more expensive over the next 10 years?
A lease on the current location would be cheaper than building new or renovating. However, after 15 years the cost would be greater since we would own the other offices free and clear. With a lease, we would be in the same situation that we are in now every 5 years.

Would it make sense to include space for the post office too?
The MAC did not consider this in its final analysis. It was discussed, but it was determined that there would not be enough room on the lot, and it would remove the post office from its current central location.

Why do we need 750 sq. ft. rather than 550 sq. ft., and how much more would the additional 200 sq. ft. be?
The Selectmen would like to have 750 sq. ft. to allow for meeting space in the Town Office and to accommodate future needs if the requirements of municipal government expand. The additional 200 sq. ft. would cost about $12,000.00, so it isn’t a lot more for the additional space.

Has anyone talked to the Neighborhood House about the possibility of collaborating with them as they plan for substantial improvements to the facility?
The MAC did not consider this option. It only looked at sites that the Town currently owns. It might be a viable option, but the Town and MAC would need to open up discussions with the Neighborhood House Board of Directors.

The idea and a plan was discussed at the last INH Board of Directors meeting. The Board considered the idea, but took no action. They would need to see a viable plan worked out and discuss the financial arrangement with the Town before they would agree to it. It seems like a good idea, but the details would need to be worked out.

What would need to be done:
• Merge Neighborhood House plans with the Town Office plans.
• Work out a viable plan for a 450 sq. ft. addition for offices (bathroom and meeting space would already be located in the Neighborhood House)
• Work out a financial arrangement and long-term ( 15 or 20-year) lease with the Neighborhood House (one idea would be for the Town to borrow the money and pay for the lease up front, with the neighborhood house using the money, along with money from its capital campaign to complete its renovation project and construct a 450 sq. ft. addition. The total lease cost should be close to equaling the current low cost option of the 15 Year Town House lease cost.
• Likely Benefits: Central location ; Long-term lease; Possibly least expensive option

**Comments from Carl Brooks were read at the meeting (e-mail attached).

IV. Adjournment: (6:15 P.M.)