Editor’s Note: This is part of a series on issues in the town of Gorham that were highlighted at a contentious Town Board meeting last week. Links to all parts are, or will, be published at the bottom of this story as they are released.
The discussion surrounding building a new multi-million dollar municipal building in Gorham has reached a fever pitch. At a town board meeting Wednesday, October 12th, several residents spoke passionately against the proposal.
“We think it’s excessive in this economic climate,” community member Debbie North said. “We think that not only is it something that could be scaled down considerably, but there weren’t any options given.”
She wasn’t alone.
“At a time of record-breaking inflation why are we considering this?,” resident Ed Merritt asked the board during the public comment section. “Seems a little overkill to me. It’s a terrible amount of money to be spending to park a few trucks. We can do better. We should do better.”
Back in June, the town board voted to finance around $5.5 million for construction of a new 20,250 square foot Highway Department building.
“This building is going to have locker rooms, both male and female,” North added. “It’s going to have heated bays for the snow plows.”
Town councilor weighs in on idea
Town Councilor Jake Chard said changes are necessary, though, because the existing building is deteriorating.
“Currently, our highway department building that houses all of the equipment, I believe was built in the 70s,” Chard said. “We’ve been debating whether or not we need to add funds to maintain it or to rebuild it.”
Chard explained the board has been considering options, and decided a good one was to demolish the old building and start fresh.
“We’ve had proposals throughout the last few years by looking at different towns and what they’ve done,” Chard added. “One of the proposals that we had put forth was to tear it down and rebuild it at approximately $5.5 million, in which case it was going to go to a bond resolution. Over the summer, we passed it.”
Petition leads to public vote on the matter
But that didn’t sit well with North and her neighbors. She said when they complained that there wasn’t enough citizen input, they were met with a blunt response.
“We were told point blank, ‘You voted us in to do a job and we’re doing it,’” North said.
So they started a petition and got enough signatures to bring the issue to a vote, which will happen later this month.
“I would like to see a revision of plans, A, B, and C,” North explained. “A is the grand plan. B is ok, let’s revise what we’ve got and maybe add one new building or add on to an existing building. And C, this is bare bones. This is what we can live with until the economic climate changes.”
The vote on the proposal is scheduled for October 25th.
MORE FROM THIS SERIES
- Part I: Why are Gorham residents so frustrated with the Town Board? (Published, Monday, Oct. 17th)
- Part II: Inside the decision to borrow money to build a $5.5M highway building (Coming, Tuesday, Oct. 18th)
- Part III: Should short-term rentals be scrutinized with greater regulation in Gorham? (Coming, Wednesday, Oct. 19th)
- Part IV: Traffic concerns vs. economic development in Gorham — What’s wrong with County Road 18? (Coming, Thursday, Oct. 20th)
Rebecca is a veteran multimedia journalist serving as one of our core reporters in the Finger Lakes region. She is responsible for telling stories that matter to every day Upstate New Yorkers. Have a question or lead? Send it to [email protected].