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Stockholm Town Board opts not to make purchase offer on former bank building

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WINTHROP - The Stockholm Town Board has been exploring options for a new municipal building for several months, but they crossed one of those possibilities off the list Tuesday night.

The town board voted unanimously not to submit a purchase offer to Tri-Town businessman Rick Seguin for the former Key Bank building, Route 11C, in downtown Winthrop. Mr. Seguin purchased the bank building earlier this summer after Key Bank closed its Winthrop branch in early May.

Town officials have also discussed renovating the existing Quonset building that has served as the town government headquarters for the past four decades and building a new municipal building next to the town highway barns in Stockholm Center. Town officials have pointed to a report from an architect suggesting new construction might be less expensive than making the necessary renovations to the current town government building.

“We have to give Rick an answer tomorrow,” Supervisor Clark S. Decker noted at Tuesday night’s town board meeting.

He noted several board members as well as Robin McClellan, a member of the town’s economic development committee, had walked through the former bank building in recent weeks. Mr. Decker said an architect had projected the cost of purchasing and renovating the structure would be in the half million dollar range, with the vast majority being for renovations and an addition to the structure to meet town government’s needs.

Mr. McClellan noted even after spending a half million dollars the expanded bank building would still not have the space necessary to house the Stockholm Historical Society’s collection. “The addition for the court would be as big as the existing building,” he pointed out.

Town officials also explored a building owned by James Sheehan at the former Greene’s sawmill site in Sanfordville and also found that space wasn’t large enough to meet the town’s needs.

Mr. McClellan noted Mr. Seguin had indicated he was considering turning the former bank building into an eight-unit motel if the town didn’t purchase the structure.

“It seems like that would be pretty good for economic development. It would put it on the tax rolls and generate business in town,” he said.

Several town board members agreed with Mr. McClellan’s assertion town officials needed to develop a long-range plan before moving forward on plans for the future of the town government headquarters. “Then you would be able to look at all of our possibilities rather than just responding to what comes on the market,” he noted.

Councilman Robert J. McCuin said the bank’s location was ideal for the municipal building, but he suggested the town simply wasn’t ready to move forward with a plan to replace its existing building. “We just need to do more research,” he said.

His concerns were shared by Councilwoman Nancy Lynch, who expressed concerns with financing the venture. “There’s just so much work that needs to be done for everything we need. Even it is not a half million dollars, maybe it is just $300,000, even if we have to put some money into this building, we’re just not flush with a lot of money right now,” she said.

Mr. Decker acknowledged the timing was simply not right for moving forward with the building project. He pointed the town board had just approved a tentative spending plan for 2014 that calls for a 7.5 percent tax hike simply to maintain Stockholm’s highway operations.

“We’re facing more uncertainty in Washington right now. I’d hate commit to retrofitting a building and then not have the finances. We can see where we are at the end of the year and consider establishing a reserve fund for a building, Then in 2015 when the bond on the salt shed is paid off we will be in a better position to look at which route we might want to pursue,” he said.

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