Committee Listens to Town Hall Expansion Proposals

DEEP RIVER – Proposals to expand the 1892 town hall would create a larger vault and more office space.

Richard King, chairman of the town hall expansion committee, said an expansion is needed because the 390 square foot vault in the town clerk’s office housing land records, probate court records, and historical Old Saybrook documents before 1948 does not meet state guidelines.

Town clerk Jeanne Nickse said a basement vault, approximately half the size of the first floor vault, houses overflow and secondary documents with its own entrance in the basement.

Eunice DiBella, Connecticut Public Records Administrator, said vault space guidelines based on the town’s population and because it houses probate court records, the vault should be between 550 and 750 square feet.

Nickse said the space in the vault is cramped and soon there will be no to add new records.

“Expanding the vault in the middle of the building is not easy to do,” Nickse said, prompting the town hall expansion proposal.

The Office of the Connecticut Public Records Administrator requires town clerk’s offices to be located near the vault.

Nickse would like to see a multi-level vault in the addition with an entrance on each floor eliminating the need for a stairwell inside the vault.

Selectman Richard Foust said surveys were handed out to all town hall offices to find out whether they needed more space, leading the town hall expansion committee to hire architect Angela D. Cahill to study the programmatic needs of town hall and report back for a June 8 meeting.

Cahill, who works for Shoenhardt, gave proposals to expand the present 12,530 square-foot town hall by either 7,060 square feet or 10,250 square feet.

The committee originally asked Cahill to study a proposed 8,000 square foot addition.

Under the smaller expansion option, preliminary plans show office space would increase by 4,682 square feet.

The first floor would have an additional 3,228 square feet divided into three offices of 598, 603, and 1,087 square feet.

The proposal would add a 791 square foot mezzanine, Cahill said, which cannot be connected to the current mezzanine due to lack of headroom.

Plans also call for a 603 square foot office second floor addition.

Approximately 2,378 square feet would be used for building services such as hallways, restrooms, stairwells, and elevators.

Regarding the smaller proposal, Cahill said, “what concerned me is the appropriateness for the projects’ efficiency of use for usable space. There is less value with low usable space but it’s difficult to work with a triangular building.”

Cahill called the larger proposal “more economical” which would add 8,475 square feet of office space.

First floor office additions would be the same as proposed in the smaller expansion proposal.

Plans show the mezzanine would have two offices of 798 and 2,198 square feet and a second floor 2,198 square foot office addition.

Cahill said the proposed mezzanine and second floor additions would be built over several parking spaces creating sheltered parking.

Under the larger proposal, building services would take up 1,775 square feet.

The basement’s expansion would mostly be used for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, HVAC, but a proposed restroom or conference room is possible under either plan.

King said the basement “is not fit for anyone’s office” and plans do not call for the floor to be elevator accessible.

Eliminating the current exterior ramp system, bringing existing stairwells to fire code, replicating existing architecture for the addition’s exterior, and relocating the main entrance of town hall closer to the proposed parking lot are goals of both proposals, Cahill said.

“I’m happy to revise the style and appropriate use of the building,” Cahill said, adding, “there is the possibility to mix and match between the two options.”

King said it is “too early to discuss” dollar estimates for either option but said the commission has a $2.5 million budget for construction costs, legal fees, and architectural fees.

Turnpike Properties will give the town $100,000 for architectural and engineering fees for the proposed expansion.

According to Foust, the proposed town hall expansion will be built in the 20-foot-wide Veteran’s Memorial Lane

First Selectman Richard Smith said a pending land swap would allow the town to own the former LaPlace’s property while Turnpike Properties would own the former Deep River Inn property.

The former LaPlace’s property would be transformed into a parking lot with curbing, plantings, and lighting paid for by Turnpike Properties while the Deep River Inn property will be transformed into a Walgreens pharmacy.

Foust said it was important that the expansion not cross the property line since it would eliminate parking spaces Walgreens is required to provide because of Planning and Zoning Commission regulations.

Cahill said both proposals would take away two parking spaces, one for the building’s footprint and the other, to create an outside pedestrian thoroughfare.

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