NEW LEBANON – Voters here soundly defeated a bond resolution that, if passed, would have authorized the Town to borrow up to $815,000 to renovate and expand the existing Town Hall. The result of the special election held Tuesday, June 29, was 88 in favor and 182 opposed.
“We will have to go back to the drawing board,” said Town Supervisor Meg Robertson (D). She said the Town Board will bring this matter back to the voters in the November general election. In the meantime, she and town officials will redouble efforts to secure grants and other funding from federal and state elected officials in order to reduce the amount of town funds needed.
She said she would also use the four months to “get the word out” and provide a “thorough explanation” of what the resolution entails.
Ms Robertson said that based on many phone calls and conversations she has had, voters may have misunderstood the $815,000 figure that appeared in the bond resolution. This, according to material distributed at an informational meeting held the evening before the election, is a “worst case” estimate that the Town Board was required by law to insert in the resolution. Actual project costs and the level of borrowing could well be lower. In addition, the Town had already set aside $260,000 for the project and up to $30,000 in state funding for local courts is available to help offset project costs. Town Board and Building Committee members strongly stated that passage of the resolution would not result in increased town taxes.
Ironically, the results of the special election doomed the town’s chance to win up to $75,000 in federal funding for the project. The limited window of time during which the federal money was available prompted the board to call the special election earlier than planned in order to meet grant deadlines.
Town officials have wrestled with how to address building problems at Town Hall since 2004, when it they were forced to abandon the room used for meetings and Town Court. In the years since, various Town Board and citizens committees have explored a number of alternative locations and options. After much study, the Building Committee concluded that adding space to, and renovating the existing building was the most cost effective strategy. Ms. Robertson praised the work of the committee that worked hard on the project plans.
Ms. Robertson anticipated that the project scope and costs would remain roughly the same for the November election. The project consists of a new entrance way, two additions on either side of the existing building for a meeting/court room, various offices and a small conference room that may also be used for senior group meetings. The project budget anticipates that volunteers will provide the labor for renovations within the existing building.