Town House Renovation

To the Editor:

Marion Selectmen explain the decision to move forward with town house renovation project.

The Board of Selectmen are the elected representatives of all of the residents of the Town of Marion. It is our job and our solemn responsibility to exercise our best judgment as we complete the task of representing our constituency. Sometimes that means that we need to make decisions that some will criticize. Nevertheless, as your elected representatives, we go about the business of leading the community in a way that we believe is both responsible and prudent.

The recent decision that has generated some controversy is the one in which we voted to include on the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting only the Article for the renovation of the Town House. Our decision to proceed in this way was in no way intended to minimize the hard work of the Subcommittee of the Town House Building Committee. We recognize that these committee members expended considerable energy with very little time and an even smaller budget.

Our decision, however, was made after consideration of many different factors. We have been studying the issue of what to do about the Town House for about 10 years. We have commissioned studies to look at the existing conditions of the building. We have had two different volunteer committees look at several different approaches that included renovation of the existing structure, erecting a new building on another site, and even joining the existing building with the Library to have a larger, campus-like setting. We believe that the different concepts have been satisfactorily studied.

As Board members, we have attended many public forums at which various iterations of potential designs have been formulated and discussed. We have watched as Town Meeting has twice funded the continued study of the renovation of the Town House. A survey, admittedly unscientific, was conducted in which the majority of those who took the time to respond indicated that their preference was for renovation over the construction of a new building at the former VFW site. The most recent of these was the public hearing held on March 1, and we came away with the clear impression that the majority of our residents favor the renovation of our historic Town House.

We must also consider the proposals in light of what makes the best economic sense. We believe that the current plan to renovate the existing Town House has been thoroughly vetted and that the likelihood of surprises in terms of cost overruns would be quite minimal. The construction of a new building, on the other hand, has a long way to go before a meaningful budget estimate can be adequately developed. It would take a lot longer to get to an apples-to-apples comparison. And, while that was occurring, the actual cost for either scenario would only continue to rise.

In addition, we do not agree that sending competing articles to Town Meeting is the prudent course of action. Recent capital projects that include the expansion of Sippican School, the building of the Sewer Treatment Plant, or the construction of the new Police Station were not handled that way. Rather, previous Boards of Selectmen took a leadership role and submitted the article that, in their best judgment, makes the most sense given the best information at the time. We believe that we have done exactly that here.

As your elected representatives, we understand that with every decision, some will be happy and others will be disappointed. We never expected that this decision would be any different. We believe, as your elected representatives, that we have made the best decision based upon our best judgment when considering all of the many complex factors. This matter is clearly in the voters’ hands at both the Town Meeting and the Election.

Marion Board of Selectmen

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