The selectmen breathed a collective sigh of relief last night after hearing that ownership of the former Santander Bank building has officially transferred to the town for use as a new town hall.
“The deed has been recorded,” Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham told the selectmen. “One hundred Route 6A is now officially under ownership by the Town of Sandwich.”
Insurance for the building has also been put into place, Mr. Dunham said.
The transfer signals the end of months of controversy about whether the 16,000-square-foot building should be used for town offices or as a senior center.
Selectman chairman David J. Sampson said the town must now focus on making sure the building is properly maintained, inside and out; that the lawn is mowed, the landscaping kept up, and a lighted flag placed in front of the building.
The selectmen must discuss the building’s name and whether they want to place a sign indicating that the building is the new home of town offices, Mr. Sampson said.
Town employees, now spread out among buildings all over town, could move into the new building as soon as 18 to 24 months, Mr. Dunham said.
The $3.95 million price tag for the proposed town headquarters included $2.1 million to purchase the building, as well as an estimated $1.85 million for improvements—including the addition of 38 more parking spaces, upgrades to the septic system, a new layout, and general repairs and renovations.
Preliminary plans show that all offices with heavy foot traffic—including the tax collector, the town clerk, the town manager/selectmen, and building inspections and permitting—would be located on the first floor.
The lower floor of the former bank building would be home to the human resources, engineering, planning and development, and IT departments.
Additional improvements behind the building would provide natural light for the downstairs offices, as well as a secondary way for employees to get in and out, Mr. Dunham has said.
“The new building can accommodate 51 employees—the number we would be moving from town hall, the town hall annex and the town office building at 16 Jan Sebastian Drive,” Mr. Dunham has said.
The new, re-purposed building will be accessible for people with disabilities, easier to manage, and more convenient for taxpayers to conduct town business, town officials have said.
The town won approval to buy the building from voters at the May 6 Town Meeting after hours of debate and three votes.
The Sandwich Council on Aging had expressed interest in the Santander building for use as a new senior center. A citizens petition sought a vote from residents to make that happen.
After the contentious Town Meeting the selectmen reaffirmed their promise to hold a Special Town Meeting in the fall, during which voters will be asked to allow the town to borrow $15 million for a brand-new senior center and for renovations to the Sandwich Public Library.
Mr. Dunham said last week that he has met with the architects for both projects, and they have agreed to have preliminary plans and cost estimates prepared in time for the Fall Town Meeting.
The town has almost completed contract negotiations with local architectural firm Brown, Lindquist, Fenuccio & Raber to redesign the bank building, Mr. Dunham said last night.
There has been talk about moving the town’s historical archives—currently housed in the library—to the current town hall at 130 Main Street after it is vacated.
The lower floor of town hall, however, was not built to archival standards and may not be secure enough for storage of those files, Mr. Dunham said last week.
The library board of trustees determined this week that they should proceed with plans to house the archives in a room near the front of the renovated library building—which will free up the McKnight conference room for other purposes.