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Selectmen support renovation and expansion idea
Litchfield.bz (04-03-19)


 
An aerial view of Litchfield Town Hall, which would be renovated and expanded under a plan the Board of Selectmen supports considering. Peter Tavino photo
 
Taking a look at the idea of renovating and expanding Town Hall is the preferred option of the Board of Selectmen in Litchfield.
 
Selectmen on Tuesday decided unanimously to target upgrading and enlarging Town Hall at a cost that is expected to fall around $5 million.
 
Upgrading the building just to make it functional for the immediate future would cost an estimated $2.9 million, according to a report made to the selectmen in March by public works Director Raz Alexe. Putting an addition onto the back of the building could cost about $2.1 million.
 
The next step for the board will be to reactivate the Town Hall Review Committee, which has been dormant since recommending conversion of the former Litchfield County courthouse into a Town Hall last fall.
 
The committee would be charged with working with an architect to develop a plan to renovate and expand Town Hall and present it to the selectmen for consideration. Voters would have to approve a plan for the building in a referendum.
 
Selectmen decided a project involving only Town Hall would be the most viable. An upgrade would bring the building up to modern standards and an addition would allow it to accommodate the five town departments located in the Town Hall Annex in the former Bantam School.
 
By voting to focus on Town Hall, selectmen are all but abandoning the idea of upgrading the former Bantam School, which also houses the Bantam post office. Renovating the old school to bring it up to modern standards would cost an estimated $3.1 million, according to Alexe’s report.
 
Sinking that kind of money into a building that is underutilized would be irresponsible, according to the selectmen.
 
“I don’t think anyone around this table wants to put money into (the former school) without a guarantee of usage that would fill the building,” said Selectman Jonathan Torrant, who made the motion to renovate and expand Town Hall.
 
Only one-third of the old school is being used in the wake of Bantam Superior Court moving out in 2017. Demolishing the building would cost an estimated $300,000, according to Alexe.
 
If demolition is the choice selectmen settle on, the town could keep the property as open space while determining what to do with it, according to Selectman Paul Parsons.