The Westport town hall.
The committee formed to figure out what to do with the Westport Town Hall will soon be going over proposals.
The committee, chaired by Bill Johnston, recently sent out a request for proposals for engineers and architects to assess the feasibility of continuing to use the WADA building in the hamlet as the town offices and what would need to be done in order to update the building.
“This is a building that is in a good location, it’s a historic building and it fits into the character of the community,” Johnston said. “People want the offices to stay in the hamlet, but if they are, this building is going to need some upgrades.”
Johnston said that the most important —and perhaps most expensive — part of any evaluation would be the structural stability and safety of the building.
“Safety is a factor,” he said. “The process needs to determine if this building is structurally adequate. And if it is not, can it be made so at a reasonable cost?”
Johnston also noted the cost of heating the building in the winter months as well as the “functionality” of the building as factors.
“There are a lot of issues with this building that are associated with the heating issue,” he said. “There also needs to be a look at the use of space and if it could be reorganized to make it more functional as a town office.”
Johnston also noted that the downstairs offices are often plagued by noise from upstairs activities, and that the current restrooms are “marginally code compliant.”
Along with solving issues, Johnston said that any plan would also address accentuating the historic nature of the building.
“We want to make better use of its historical qualities,” he said. “We want to improve the appearance in keeping with its historic character.”
As part of the research done by the committee, the members went and toured the current offices of Adirondack Architectural Heritage. Its director, Steven Engelhart, is serving as an advisor to the committee.
“It was a former office building that had been vacant for years that AARCH renovated,” Johnston said. “We wanted to see how you could take a historic building and modernize it.”
Proposals for the work were to be opened at the June 26 meeting of the Westport Town Board and would then be looked over by the committee. There were 13 proposals submitted.
“We want to look at the qualifications of the people, how they approach the problem and what it is going to cost,” Johnston said. “It’s hard for me to say if there is a timeline, but the review could take as long as a month.”
Johnston said that any project would have to be done in phases in order to break up the costs.
“We will try to answer the basic questions early,” Johnston said. “If those answers come back positive, then we can move on to the next phases.”
The town hall, or WADA, building, was originally constructed by Vern Gough for the Lake View Grange in 1928. The building has seen uses for plays, dances, basketball games before the current Westport Central School was built in 1932, and roller skating rink before becoming the town offices in 1971.