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Jaffrey town office in need of structural repairs

  • The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

    The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards.

    (Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • The carpet on the second floor of the Jaffrey town offices was pulled up and assessments are being made to evaluate the structural integrity of the sloping floorboards. <br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

JAFFREY — Structural issues on the second floor of the town office have prompted safety concerns and left town officials grappling with how to manage day-to-day operations with employees now displaced.

Town officials are working with contractor Dave Cutter of Peterborough-based Cutter Construction to assess the scope of repairs that would be necessary to prolong the use of the second floor and the associated costs, said Interim Town Manger Randy Heglin in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript on Tuesday. He said the town expects to have a final assessment by early next week.

For the time being, all upstairs offices have been temporarily consolidated into one side of the building, and the cramped space is causing daily challenges, Heglin said. Where those town employees will work in the weeks ahead is unclear, he said, until the Select Board can evaluate the cost of repairs and make a decision about whether or not to proceed with them.

“If we don’t proceed, some town offices will have to be moved down to the conference room,” Heglin said, noting that this would move future board and committee meetings to either the Jaffrey Public Library, Jaffrey Fire Station or somewhere else downtown. “But then it becomes a logistical issue.”

Heglin explained that budgeting materials, design plans and applications would have to be taken to and from meetings outside of the town office building on a regular basis.

Ten years ago when Heglin began work for the town, he said issues with the second floor of the town offices were apparent. But the problem, he said, has worsened. “We had employees sitting at their desk who were constantly fighting a moving chair,” he said, referring to the approximately 4-inch slope of the floor boards from one side of the room to the other that cause chairs on wheels to roll.

The floor is not in imminent danger of collapsing, Heglin said. The problem, though, is spreading to the first floor. “You can see downstairs to the left of the town clerk’s office that there is a crack in the wall and the door [to that office] is starting to bind, too,” he said.

Select Board member Don MacIsaac said safety of the town’s employees and how to keep people working efficiently under difficult circumstances are his top concerns. But thinking too far into the future without cost estimates in hand doesn’t make sense, he said. “We don’t know yet if there is a fix, how much it will cost and whether or not we’ll do it,” he said.

Structural issues at the existing town office have been a concern for years, according to town officials. But voters’ opinions have differed about whether or not the time is right for a new town office building, especially given the economy.

Town officials brought forward a $3.1 million warrant article in 2011 for a new community center and town office complex; it failed 254 to 64. At Town Meeting in March 2012, voters approved an appropriation of $50,000 for an architectural and design study for a new town office building, but the state’s Department of Revenue Administration nixed it in May, saying an amendment made at Town Meeting had changed the purpose of the article. Selectmen had originally asked for $200,000 — intended for upgrades to the Jaffrey Public Library and the relocation of some town offices to that site — but they amended that request to $50,000 to fund an architectural study of a new building.

This March, the Select Board is asking voters to approve $35,000 to help fund a preliminary design study, which would assess the feasibility of a new building at the existing site.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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