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Decision on town hall plans delayed

May 04, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Mayor Jim Auxer thought a decision would be made last Thursday night about plans for a new Shepherdstown Town Hall, but the only decision he got, after 2 1/2 hours of discussion, was no decision.

Town council members, after hearing details about two plans drawn by architect Andy Singletary, were swayed to delay once again the $1 million project following comments from a handful of audience members who spoke in opposition.

A new town hall would replace an obsolete, small, nondescript, white building on North King Street that was built in 1948. The Shepherdstown Police department outgrew its back-room quarters in the building several years ago and moved to rented space in a strip mall on Princess Street.

Town Hall workers are jammed in small spaces that provide no privacy to themselves or residents who come in on town business.

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The building was described by Councilman Stuart Wallace as "a horrible place to work. They're working on top of each other. They have to interact with the public in front of everybody."

The town would see immediate savings of $35,000 a year "by blending town hall and police functions again," Auxer said. Additional savings would be gained through a new energy-efficient building, he said.

Singletary presented the council with separate two-story building plans:

  • One, a completely new building, would house the police department in modern, secure quarters on the first floor and all town office functions on the second.

  • The second plan, an attempt to satisfy those who see historic value in the current town hall, would incorporate parts of it, including the entire front, into new construction.

    That layout, because it would have to work around the existing structure, would not be as efficient and would cost more to build, Singletary said.

    Stairs and an elevator would provide access to the second floor in both plans. Either design would meet handicap-accessibility requirements.

    Councilman Thomas Martin said Monday that the council favors the interior layout of the new building. The members asked Singletary to draft another drawing that would incorporate "some design feature" of the old town hall building.

    Diana Suttenfield, a local artist who lives outside Shepherdstown's corporate limits, argued on behalf of the historic aspects of the current town hall.

    Joseph Matthews, a German Street resident, thought the money would be better spent on water and sewer projects rather than on a new town hall.

    Auxer explained that money for the building will come from the town's share of video lottery money. The town council puts those funds into capital projects, not operating expenses, he said.

    If approved, a new town hall building would be dedicated late in 2010, Auxer said. Town hall functions would move to temporary quarters during construction, he said.

      

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