Cast your vote on Sangerville Town Hall

To the Editor;

In the summer and fall of 2022, the Sangerville Town Hall faced a significant setback when the Maine Municipal Association canceled its property coverage due to necessary repairs. Consequently, the select board closed the town hall and relocated the town office to a rental costing $1,300 a month. This abrupt change caught residents off guard, especially during the fall elections when voters found the town hall closed and had to resort to casting their votes at Grace Bible Church. Many expressed concerns about the inconvenience, and for their town hall — long on the National Historic Register — to be unheated for the winter.

Following these events, the town office experienced considerable turnover, and dissatisfaction among the community grew due to the temporary arrangements. At a 2023 annual town meeting workshop, residents voiced their concerns about the deteriorating state of town records at the unheated and uninsured Town Hall, as well as the inadequate facilities of the rented office space for meetings, storage, and voting. Throughout the fall of 2023, well-attended discussions were held about the issue.

It was often mentioned that the town hall cost $10,000 to heat. However there was little mention of the current yearly rent of $15,600 for the temporary office space, which significantly exceeded the figure quoted for heat. Estimates for the cost of repairing the town hall varied wildly, ranging from $2 million to $4 million, and then up to $12 million. These figures  were mostly conjecture, based on an engineer’s inspection that was never completed in a final report, or shared with the public. By the Dec. 16, 2023 special town meeting, voters  rejected a $440,000 proposal to build a new town office by a vote of 79-21. Many questioned the necessity of a new office when the existing Town Hall could provide much-needed voting and meeting space. There was also concern for the deteriorating documents in the unheated town hall. 

By January a town hall committee reconvened, only to find a new town office was again on the agenda. Despite voter concern at the 2023 town meeting workshop, and the decisive vote not to build new, the town hall remained unheated and under-insured for its second winter, while rent was paid for the temporary space. After the December rain storms, the previous town manager reported standing water on the second floor.    

The ad hoc committee’s work progressed by gathering hard numbers from contractors to address foundation and wiring concerns. Unfortunately, that progress was halted. The board denied further access to the town hall, and described the $440,000 amount to address MMA’s punch list as “glib.” Actually, that number was completely sincere. In December, voters were assured that amount could build a new town office without any tax increase. Yet at an April board meeting, a selectman stated that spending that amount for town hall repairs would more than quintuple an individual’s tax bill. In a recent mailing there’s a red-letter warning about a 35 percent tax increase. It’s misleading, since those very same funds were described in December as available to build a new town office without raising taxes. 

The May 4 annual town meeting at 1 p.m. looks to have at least three articles concerning the town hall: to sell it outright, repair it using $440,000 from the town’s available funds, or  build new. Please attend. It will be held in Sangerville, but at the Grace Bible Church. Hear the discussion, and cast your vote. 

Sue Griffith


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