May 23, 2018
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Otis considers plan to replace failing town office, library

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff

OTIS, Maine — In its roughly 80-year life, the building at 123 Ellsworth Road in Otis has been a community center, a school and, now, the Otis town office and library.

Soon, it may be gone.

Otis residents will decide in a March 25 special town meeting whether to go ahead with plans to build a new, modern, energy-efficient building to hold the town office and library.

For six years, residents have voted to squirrel away $50,000 annually, with the goal of someday replacing the town hall. Sketch plans have been drawn up for a replacement, and Administrative Assistant Laura Salisbury says the time is right to replace the old building, which she described as “in very bad repair.”

“It’s not energy-efficient. The sills underneath are rotting and the whole thing is starting to fall in a little bit,” she said Friday. “It’s not on a foundation or anything. It was built a long time ago, many years ago when no one cared about that stuff.”

While the building fulfills its duty as a home to Otis’ administrative needs, and the town library, Salisbury said it’s less than ideal. The building wasn’t designed for municipal functions, and lacks several key features needed by the town. There’s no meeting room, for one, and no vault to keep town records safe from disaster.

“If we were to have a fire, we’d lose all the town records,” she said.

Selectmen decided during their February meeting to set a cap of $600,000 on the building replacement. The town has $275,000 saved already.

The new town office would be a one-story building of about 3,500 square feet — a smidge smaller than the current office. Salisbury said that even if the building isn’t quite as large, it will far better serve the people of Otis. It will feature a meeting room large enough to host the annual town meeting, and more space for the library.

“We’ll have more room, more shelving space,” Salisbury said. “We’ll be able to bring in more books and make an area for children.”

If voters approve the plan, the town will request bids for four projects: Construction of the new town office, demolition of the old one, installation of a new septic system, and the relocation of the town’s Historical Building, which currently sits where the new town office would be built.

According to the minutes of the selectmen’s Feb. 4 meeting, Machias Savings Bank has offered the town a 2 percent interest rate for a loan to cover the project. The bank has also agreed to accept a yearly lump-sum payment of $50,000.

Salisbury said that means the town can continue to budget as it has been, and build a new town office without raising the town’s property tax rate.

Sketches of the proposal for the new building are available for residents to review at the town office, Salisbury said.

Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.

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