referendum pg 1 9-13-18

By Linda Lemmon
Town Crier Editor
PUTNAM — A new municipal complex — with space to grow for the library, senior services and historical records and research — and new athletic fields are all on the agenda for the town’s Sept. 18 referendum.
Voting will be from 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Sept. 18 at 61 Keech St. at the Murphy Park Building and at 151 Fox Road, the Highway Garage. Those who are qualified to vote in town meetings who are not electors will vote at 61 Keech St.
The referendum asks voters if the town should appropriate $19,940,697 for the design and construction of a municipal complex that will be built on side of the Owen Tarr field. The question also asks voters to authorize the issuance of bonds and notes in the same amount.
The municipal complex will contain a two-story town hall. Attached to the town hall will be a one-story building with a new library, a large community center with moveable walls, a kitchen and a historical records and research space.
The referendum also asks voters for approval of $756,480 for the design and construction of athletic field projects and to authorize the issuance of bonds and notes in the same amount.
Town Administrator Mary Calorio said the town’s athletic fields at Owen Tarr would be replaced with green space. The town proposes building two areas of recreation fields. One is behind the St. Marie Greenhalgh Sports Complex and will include a softball field, large multipurpose field, small soccer field, and throwing area for track, field lighting, and a small parking lot. Construction would take place in one construction season, but it would have to sit a year for the grass to truly “take.”
In addition, a multipurpose recreation field, gravel parking, a walking trail and an 18-hole disc golf course would be built on less than 10 of 22 acres of town-owned land off Sabin Street. Like Owen Tarr, that property is restricted to recreational use. The Sabin Street project will be very rustic, Calorio said. The walking trail will be very rustic, not paved and very scenic. Natural boundaries will be maintained and will provide “a substantial portion to buffering,” she said.
The DEEP is very involved, is intent on protecting the Little River. “We want to partner with DEEP in protecting. Putnam has a vested interest in that since some of our water supply comes from this river.”
Both recreation areas would be funded with the proceeds of the sale of gravel from the Sabin Street site. The gravel removal would be done over the course of five years so the town would front the money and be repaid by gravel revenue, Calorio said. Gravel trucks going in and out would not be driving the length of Sabin Street. They would be required to go the other way.
After speaking to many groups with Putnam Mayor Norman “Barney” Seney, Calorio said that many have “great questions” and are concerned about the cost and financing.
Other sentiments are “It’s time,” she said. The town’s choices are either renovate or build new. The estimated cost of renovating the current Town Hall would be $7.4 million and would not provide enough space for all departments and storage.
“A lot of people say we just need a new one. This community is very active in government, library and historical services,” she said. “They have lots of respect for services we do.” She added she believes there will be a good turnout for the referendum.
The complex’s town hall section would contain almost 40,000 square feet and would occupy two floors. The current town hall has about 10,000 square feet. The new one would offer room to grow and safe storage for documents for the town clerk and other offices including the building and zoning office, assessor’s office, tax collector and more.
The current library has barely 7,000 square feet and most of its programing is in the basement — down a flight of stairs. “It’s not feasible to access it,” Calorio said. While the staff tries hard to break off pieces of programming and bring them upstairs, there’s just not enough room. Proposed in the new municipal complex, the new library would be on one floor and would contain 12,500 square feet.
The community center across the hall would offer even more usable space, she said.
The library project is out of extensions from the State Library for its $1 million grant. If a new library is not OK’d by Nov. 25, the state takes back the $1 million.
The community center portion of the complex has moveable walls that can be configured to serve any number of groups/programs. Calorio said there are many organizations looking for space. There is also a kitchen so senior lunches are a possibility, she added. “Putnam is a multigenerational community,” she said.
In addition, the complex would house historical records and research. It would contain a vault for the storage of precious and fragile historical documents.
The old library and the Town Hall would be put on the market.
The total cost of the Municipal Complex is $19,940,697. A $1 million grant for the library would reduce that total by $1 million. The town is proposing an appropriation or loan of $7 million from the Ash Landfill Fund, Calorio said. The landfill fund has about $10 million in it. Whether it’s an appropriation or a loan, a separate vote is required. The remaining $11,940,697 would be funded with municipal bonds which do not have to all occur in one year, as a USDA loan would. It’s difficult to say, with changing financial climate and “no crystal ball” what the effect on the mill rate would be in the future, she told the Putnam Rotary Club.
If the projects are approved, Calorio said there would be a “roughly 18-month design period.” The Board of Selectmen would create a committee for the project. After design, construction would take about three years so “we’re looking at a five-year window to move in,” she said.
Many people “recognize we need to make this investment,” Calorio said.


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