Years of discussion—and occasional tension—between the Lovettsville Town Council and town staff over the need for more office space is finally morphing into a real project.
After a half-hour closed session last Thursday night, the Town Council voted 4-2 to authorize Town Manager Rob Ritter to compile a request for proposals that will solicit interest from firms interested in designing and building a 2,125-square-foot town office expansion. Although the council discussed financing during the open session portion of the meeting, it opted to go into closed session to discuss and agree on a not-to-exceed amount for the project, which it did not disclose.
Councilmen Mike Dunlap and Matthew Schilling voted against authorizing Ritter to issue the advertisement. Although Dunlap noted earlier in the meeting that the council needed to determine a cost for the town office expansion project and that the council has engaged in “too many discussions with too many numbers all over the map,” he said later that the town should first focus on completing other infrastructure projects.
During the meeting, the council discussed three financing options to pay for an estimated $850,000 office expansion. The first option would see the town use $550,000 from reserves and apply for a $300,000 loan to be paid back in 20 years with annual payments of close to $20,000. Another option would use $350,000 from reserves along with a $500,000 loan to be paid back in 20 years at close to $33,000 annually. The third option would pull $100,000 from reserves and have the town apply for a $750,000 loan to be paid back in 20 years at about $49,000 annually. The fourth option is to take $100,000 from reserves and apply for a $750,000 loan to be paid back in 30 years at about $36,000 annually.
Mayor Nate Fontaine mentioned before the vote that the Town Council needed to take action on the matter because it’s been talked about for so long, adding that the 11-year-old single-wide trailer that some staff members have been using as additional office space is overdue for a replacement. “We must make a decision to do something … Something must get done to fix it,” he said.
The vote comes after years of urging from the town staff to get the Town Council to authorize an expansion of the existing 1,250-square-foot office, which includes a council chambers that doubles as extra office space and often becomes overcrowded during town meetings.
In 2013, the town paid an architectural firm $57,000 to perform a preliminary site evaluation that concluded the town needed 5,800-square-feet of office space. A few years later, when staff compiled a report outlining plans to replace the singlewide trailer with a doublewide for $100,000, the Town Council removed funding for such a project.
Since 2008, the town has spent $66,000 on the trailer rental and is now spending about $10,000 annually on it.
In early 2018, the town spent $8,000 on an office expansion plan, but the Town Council decided to not move the project past its conceptual phase. This year, Ritter presented a $1.5 million proposal to expand the office into a 4,180-square-foot building.
He also presented an option to rent or purchase a single or doublewide trailer, following notification from the trailer manufacturer that the trailer was nine years past its recommended replacement date and that it might not hold up well during the next snowfall. After numerous discussions, the council did not move those plans forward.