Grafton to Choose Among 3 Options for Town Office Building

Town and Mascoma Valley Regional School district ballot voting will be March 11. The polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Grafton Fire Station.

Grafton — On the heels of a state inspection that determined parts of the town office building were in disrepair, voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide on a course of action.

The Selectboard and Budget Committee are split.

The Budget Committee is recommending the town borrow $296,000 to pay for the construction of a new town office building, located on vacant town land behind the existing building. The borrowed amount would be repaid over five years.

A divided Selectboard, however, opted to go another route. The board voted 2-1 to recommend that voters appropriate $137,000 to demolish the portion of the building that housed the Town Clerk’s Office and build a two-story addition.

Some of the money would be used to “remedy violations” found in other parts of the building during the state inspection.

Residents will have a third option, as well. For $12,000, the town could forgo a new building or major renovations and only address violations in the current office building.

The state inspection “renewed the debate of how to best address the repair of our buildings and whether it is worthwhile to upgrade our existing structures or to construct a new building,” the Selectboard wrote in the annual town report.

“Considering the taxpayers’ limited resources during harsh economic times and lack of a comprehensive long-term plan,” board members Steve Darrow and Sean Frost said they favor making renovations over the construction of a new building.

Jennie Joyce, the other member of the board, supports the Budget Committee’s option to construct a new building.

“I’m afraid renovations won’t take care of everything we need,” said Joyce, who also is the only board member up for re-election on Town Meeting Day.

Along with space for the Town’s Clerk Office and Selectboard, the new building would house the police department and welfare director.

A water leak in the Town Clerk’s Office has forced the shuttering of that part of the building. In January, the clerk’s office was moved into the conference room where Selectboard meetings were previously held.

The second-floor of the building is only suitable for storage and not accessible to the handicapped. The welfare director now operates out of a hallway.

Joyce, 71, has served on the Selectboard for the last six years and at various other times since the 1980s.

Leon Dugan is opposing her for the three-year seat. Dugan, a machinist, is the brother-in-law of Selectboard member Sean Frost.

Dugan, who doesn’t have a listed phone number, couldn’t be reached.

Police Chief Russell Poitras, who has been in the job for four years, will square off against challenger Paul Howard Vogt for a three-year term.

Vogt couldn’t be reached for comment.

In addition to deciding contested town races, Grafton voters will be asked to approve a town operating budget of about $993,500. The proposed budget is more than $53,000 higher than last year’s.

If the proposed budget fails, the town would revert to a default budget of just over $1 million.