Despite opposition from two members and a public protest from a former mayor, the Hamilton Town Council voted last week to proceed with its $700,000 purchase of the former Hamilton Fire Department property.
Mayor Dave Simpson said the town would close on the sale either this week or next, as soon as the title papers are in order.
The property includes the fire department building, an adjacent house, parking area and land to the rear. The council had earlier agreed to purchase the building, which is adjacent to the town office, but the deal required a budget amendment to move the necessary money into the General Fund.
Treasurer John Unger and Simpson proposed paying for the real estate using $800,000 in excess cash the town had been planning to invest. In addition to the purchase price, the allocation includes an extra $100,000 for repairs and any other needs.
The majority of council approved taking $400,000 from the General Fund and $200,000 each from the Water Fund and the Sewer Fund for the purchase.
Simpson said the money would be replenished from water taps and other fees taken in by the town. The council authorized a 10-year repayment period, although Simpson said the council would replenish the funds long before that.
Former Mayor Ray Whitby opposed the purchase, saying the money should instead be used to reduce taxes. Councilmen Craig Green and Michael Snyder opposed the use of surplus utility fund monies earmarked for system improvements.
Simpson said the council now needs to decide how it wants to use the buildings. The fire hall rental brings in $30,000 a year, but the adjacent house is sitting empty. One possibility would be to convert the fire hall to a town community center.
“We just haven’t decided yet,” he said.
For Simpson, the biggest immediate benefit of the purchase was to secure the property’s parking spaces next to the town office. The site could be developed into a public parking area for the downtown.