Town offices next to library favored

North Street location worries some as it would displace apartment dwellers

  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • Jo Anne Carr, Jaffrey's director of planning and economic development, presents diagrams of a proposed roundabout in the center of town.<br/>(Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)
  • (Staff photo by Maxine Joselow)

JAFFREY — Residents voiced support for a proposed new town office building at 17 Goodnow St., beside the Jaffrey Public Library, rather than at 15 North St., beside the existing the town offices on Goodnow Street, a second option presented to the public Monday.

At a public hearing held by the Select Board on Monday night, about 25 concerned residents came out to hear about and give feedback on the two potential sites for the new building.

Voters approved a $35,000 warrant article for a preliminary design study of a new town office building at Town Meeting in March. The town contracted with CMK Architects of Manchester for the design study of the new building at a Select Board meeting in May.

CMK Architect originally considered 13 sites for the new town offices, but narrowed the list of potential sites down to 17 Goodnow St. and 15 North St. last week, said Chip Krause, a founding partner of the firm.

Several residents said they favored the Goodnow Street location because of the potential for collaboration between the library and the town offices.

Mary Heafy, co-chair of the library’s Board of Trustees, said there is “strong support” among the trustees to build the town offices adjacent to the library.

“We see an advantage in terms of programming. We do see a lot of possibility for partnership and collaboration,” Heafy said.

Rob Stephenson, a retired city planner, echoed Heafy’s sentiments. “I think the one on Goodnow Street is better because of the potential partnership with the library,” he said.

Residents said they were dissuaded from building the new town offices on the North Street site because it would mean displacing occupants of an adjacent apartment building .

Clarissa Johnson, a resident of the apartments, said she resented the fact that the town was considering the North Street site. “It’s not a good feeling on my end, for you people to choose where I’ll be living. Where am I going to go?” Johnson asked.

Town officials have been planning for improvements or replacement of the town offices since 2007, when a study of the town’s municipal facilities conducted by the H. L. Turner Group found several issues with the existing town offices, including its accessibility, structure, heating, ventilation and air conditioning.

Town officials originally considered building the new town offices on the footprint of the existing Goodnow Street property, Town Manager Dave Caron told the Ledger-Transcript in May. But the current space is 4,400 square feet, and three recent studies found that 8,800 to 9,100 square feet is needed, Caron said at the Select Board meeting.

After abandoning the idea of rebuilding on the existing Goodnow Street property, town officials considered building near the community athletic field downtown or on available former light industrial properties. But residents rejected both locations at Town Meeting in 2011 and 2012 on the grounds that the town offices should be located in the heart of downtown, on or adjacent to Goodnow Street.

Looking ahead, the Select Board will take community input from Monday’s public hearing into account as it moves forward with plans for the new town offices, Caron said, adding that another public hearing is planned for the fall.

Roundabout discussed

Also at Monday’s meeting, the Select Board discussed whether to install a five-way roundabout at the five-way intersection of Route 202, Main Street, Turnpike Road, Stratton Road and Blake Street, in order to improve traffic flow.

The proposed roundabout would eliminate the congestion that results from trucks commuting on Route 202 through the center of town, said Jo Anne Carr, the town’s director of planning and economic development. The roundabout would be 120 feet in diameter and thus wide enough to accommodate a typical 18-wheeler, Carr said.

Carr added that the roundabout proposal should not be confused with a Route 202 bypass. “We have to be careful about how we communicate. People may hear ‘bypass,’ instead of ‘roundabout,’” Carr said. “A bypass would divert traffic downtown, which we don’t want to do.”

The roundabout would not cost taxpayers much, though an exact figure has not yet been determined, said Mike Dugas, chief of preliminary design for the N.H. Department of Transportation.

The proposal for the roundabout is still in its early planning stages, Dugas said, adding that it will be at least a year before the proposal is finalized and ready to come before the public at large.

In an interview Tuesday, Carr said the town is considering a roundabout in addition to a through-pass. She said she strongly objects to the word “bypass” because it implies that traffic is directed outside downtown. The through-pass would be an extension of Blake Street, one of the streets connected with the roundabout.

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