WESTPORT-Four municipal organizations came together to pitch their reasons for a new center in Westport during a June 27 informational meeting.
Officials from the Town of Westport, town Department of Public Works, the Westport Volunteer Fire Department and Westport Central School Board of Education talked about their ideas behind a proposed vote to authorize the town to bond for $7 million for a new municipal community center, which would be built at the site of the current town DPW shed.
Town supervisor Daniel Connell said that while the bond was for $7 million, that would not be an allowable price tag for the building.
"We have already resolved as a board that if the price comes in over $6 million, we will not move forward," Connell said. "As the elected officials of the town, we feel it's our responsibility to look at all the options and put forth what we think is the best long-term project for the town. Any way that you push the numbers, this is the least expensive option you can find. There's no way we would put a project out for $6 million if wee could do it for less."
The municipal center would house the Westport town hall, town courts, DPW, a fueling station for all municipalities in Westport, and garage space for the school district, along with other spaces for kitchen and meeting rooms.
Each organization involved on the committee that has looked into the municipal center talked about their reasoning behind the move.
"Our concern is that the firehouse could be closed by inspection and we would have to come up with a garage facility," Westport VFD treasurer Gordon Decker said. "Renovations are not realistic, and moving would severely harm our response times."
"I know that there is a lot of controversy about the town hall being part of this," Connell said. "In the end, it remains cheaper for the town hall to be part of this than to rebuild this facility."
'If we were forced to shut down our garage, then we would be forced to put out to bond at a very high cost and we would also have to put in our own fueling station," said WCS Superintendent Dr. John Gallagher. "Another thing is that all three need a lift for their vehicles, so should all three entities buy a separate building and put up a lift."
"For a long time, I have wanted to keep the town hall in the center of town," councilman Michael "Ike" Tyler said. "As we have gone through this process, for me, it's a no-brainer. For sentimental value, I would love to stay here, but this building is in bad shape, folks."
"We are not only going to save with what we are doing but we are going to save in the long run," school board member Dwayne Stevens said. "With one building, you are heating and maintaining four walls. With three buildings, you are heating and maintaining 12 walls."
"I do not know what we would do in this town if something happened along the lines of what happened in Ausable," acting DPW chairman Dennis "Denny" Westover said, referring to the recent closure of their town garage. "We have a violation issue here, and with our fuel, it is an inconvenience when all three entities are using it and it runs out up to three times a week in the winter. When the snow comes, you can imagine what we are thinking."
"None of the buildings we are talking about now meet codes," resident and committee member George Maffey said. "We want a facility that is inviting and the facilities we have today are not inviting."
The committee then took questions from those who attended the meeting, which ranged from questions about the figures presented, options if the proposition were to fail and whether or not the committee had considered all options.
"I was looking at the notes from our first meeting, and I would say that we have done everything that we set out to do 10 years ago," school board president Alice LaRock said.
Stevens added that he also was against the proposal at first, but had since changed his mind.
"It's just a fact, we need to move on from these buildings," Stevens said.
The committee will hold one more informational meeting on Monday, July 11 at 6 p.m. at the town hall. The vote on the proposed bond resolution will be held on Tuesday, July 19, from noon until 8 p.m. at the town hall.