Town looks to collaborate with TD Bank

Committee’s search for new town offices site continues, but members are eying a Main Street building as an option

Since Jaffrey voters approved $35,000 at Town Meeting in March to help find a new building for the town offices, the town has been considering many different options for housing the office. The most recent move has been to reach out to TD Bank on Main Street, located right next to the current town office, for possibilities of collaboration. What exactly these possibilities are remain unclear.

According to Town Manager Dave Caron, a building committee made up of Caron, department managers and Select Board member Kathleen Batchelder met with the bank in mid-October to discuss the potential for working together. “We had a good meeting,” Caron said on Tuesday. He indicated that TD Bank planned on getting back to the committee by the middle of December with suggestions. At that point, Caron said, “We’ll have a better idea of our options moving forward.”

The decision to enter discussions with TD Bank came after the first public hearing for this project in August, when the town proposed several different options. Originally, the town planned on building the new offices on the existing Goodnow Street site, but later determined the property was not large enough to put up the 8,000 to 9,000 square foot building needed, without the structure being too tall. There were also concerns mentioned about how to house employees and their work while a new building was put up on the current site. The town then narrowed down a list of potential sites for housing the town offices from 13 to three, including TD Bank, and then down to two, which were located at 15 North St. and 17 Goodnow St.

These sites were then put forth to Jaffrey residents for consideration in August. Residents at the summer hearing said the North Street property was not a good one, as putting the town offices there meant displacing residents in the adjacent apartment building. Many supported the 17 Goodnow St. property, saying there were possibilities for the town offices to collaborate with the library. Both the North and Goodnow street sites are currently residential properties.

Engaging with TD Bank was another option the town still wanted to explore, according to Caron.

Robert Stephenson, a Jaffrey resident since 1977 and retired city planner, spoke on the phone on Wednesday about his views on the town’s ongoing project and the meeting with TD Bank. “I’m interested in hearing about any conversations with TD Bank,” Stephenson said. He said there had been past discussions about the town buying the bank’s building for the offices and having the bank move somewhere else in town. Other prospects, such as combining the bank and offices in an expanded building, seemed possible to Stephenson.

“It would be unusual, but not insurmountable. I don’t know if that’s been in the discussions,” he said. Stephenson said he would be happy with any new office building that was downtown and well-executed. “Ideally, I want something that is creative in an architectural sense and that we can be proud of.”

In general, Stephenson expressed that he felt there wasn’t enough public participation in the process of finding a new town office site. “I’m not terribly enthusiastic about the process. It’s fairly close to the chest,” he said. “There hasn’t been much information.”

A second public hearing will be held sometime after TD Bank’s response, according to Caron.

While the town contracted CMK Architects of Manchester in the spring for preliminary site design for a baseline architectural fee of $14,500 — out of the $35,000 approved in March— the firm has not been very involved as of yet. “The firm cannot do a lot of conceptual designs until we identify a potential site,” Caron said. According to Caron, the firm has been able to help the town look into potential sites and consider the consequences of moving to those sites. “After a site is selected, the firm will reengage with the town,” Caron said.

As the town continues to look for new locations for its offices, it is making the necessary improvements to the current building in the meantime. With structural issues causing town employees to vacate the second floor in February, Select Board members approved a $15,000 renovation shortly after March’s Town Meeting to ensure employee safety. New support beams, carpeting and floor stabilization were completed in early April.

In addition, the town offices completed installing automatic door-openers in the past two weeks to bring the existing building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act . The town used some of the $25,000 out of the town’s Building Maintenance Capital Reserve Fund approved by voters in March 2011 to improve handicap accessibility for the current town office.

Elodie can be reached by phone at 924-7172 ext. 228, or by email at ereed@ledgertranscript.com. Elodie is also on Twitter @elodie_reed.

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