Freedom – December 8, 2008 – A Land Committee appointed by Freedom’s Board of Selectmen is said to be close to recommending the purchase of 55 acres outside the village as a new location for the town’s municipal offices and police and fire departments.
The committee will meet to discuss the purchase this Thursday night, December 11, at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
Sources say the Committee is focused on land owned by Libby Priebe at the junction of Route 153 and Ossipee Lake Road. If the Committee recommends the purchase, it will be subject to the approval of town residents at the annual Town Meeting in March.
The Selectmen tasked the Land Committee with finding property where the town’s municipal services can be consolidated. Currently, the selectmen and police work in the Town Office building on Old Portland Road, and the Fire Department operates from a building on Village Road.
At a Selectman’s meeting in September, Board member James Brown said the current town buildings are antiquated, don’t meet required codes and have limited parking. He and Selectman Donna Cupka said the cost of updating the two structures would exceed the cost of buying land and consolidating town functions in a new building.
But a group of local residents has raised questions about the plan, saying the Selectmen are moving toward a land purchase without fully examining all of the alternatives.
In September, town residents Lee Fritz, Pam Fortin, Gail Morris, Janet Meyers and Anne Cunningham met with the Selectmen to express their concerns that moving the municipal offices out of the village would be detrimental to the character of the town.
Asked by the group about the alternatives the Land Committee was considering, Selectman Cupka said the Committee was “down to one piece of property that was in negotiations,” according to the minutes of the meeting. Cupka added that it was [Board Chair Les] “Babb’s hope to bring this parcel to town meeting.”
When the group asked if a professional had been hired to review the feasibility of keeping the offices in their current location, Cupka said the Board was “not looking to expend monies to upgrade the current offices,” adding that the group was “welcome to bring a petition to town meeting to spend monies on professionals.”
Last month, another town resident, Jennifer Molin, formed a group called Freedom Cares to examine how the town can accommodate growth while maintaining its historic buildings and scenic rural character.
She says she also fears moving the town offices out of the village would have an impact on the town’s character that has not been sufficiently discussed by residents, noting that 97% of respondents to the Freedom Master Plan Survey said preserving historic buildings and sites was an important town objective.
Molin says Freedom Cares hopes to generate a town-wide discussion of the alternatives, which she thinks could include more effective use of the town’s two-acre Fire Department site on Village Road.
She says a feasibility study of all options should be conducted before the town is asked to vote on purchasing new land at Town Meeting.
I fail to believe that updating the current buildings to code costs more than purchasing property and building a new structure. Again, the town is spending the tax payers money in tight economic times. We already have had an increase in taxes. It’ll require another increase (possibly larger) next year.
Historically, I vote for keeping municipal government in town. I truly hope that resolution can be worked to everyone’s satisfaction. I have personally never had a parking problem at the current site, and there’s plenty of street parking for the meetings that require greater attendance.
One of the things that Freedom has is its charm, old or not it hasa certain feel to it. Its nice to want new modern structures but certainly the charm will be lost. Thats the emotional side of the coin. The rational sidde of the coin is. Outside of the current BOS who seem to want this change who in this town really feels its needed? I have been to the offices on multiple occassions and never once was it ever crowded. Never once did the toilet not work or the lights not go on. Ok so the floor is not level and its old but we’re talking about replacing and building a new complex, when the computers in the offices are years old and outdated and Freedom is still not connected to the State Registry of Moter Vehicles in any way. I would ask the people of Freedom to focus on services that make sense and are cost efficent and actually assit the people of the town. Ina time when cities and towns are being frugal accross this nation this small town of Freedom is actually contemplating spending taxpayers money. when its clear that the State will cut back what little aid they may give us becuase of the current economic situation. I suggest we ride out this horrible storm and save for a rainy day and prepare for the possibility that many Freedom citizens may be adversley affected by this economic downturn and not contemplate this action at ths time.I would hope that other membes of this towm would join me in this frugal thought process.
Ouch!!!! I just paid my tax bill, increased from last year. How, much can we take before we’re all run out of town. This seems like an awefully large expense, in this economic downturn we’ve not seen in years. A new complex would just add an additional burden on the taxpayers of Freedom. We’ve all been there, the initial costs are estimates, and inevitably will cost more in the end. I hope this issue can be resolved. And I hope I can stay in Freedom and not be taxed out!
Timing is everything and this is certainly not the time to under go a project like this and ask the taxpayer to pay more. Actually, I just cut the check for my taxes and as we all know it was higher than last year. As far as the need for a new facility I can say that I have never had a problem parking or conducting my business at the existing town offices. My suggestion to help create more room for the Selectmen and the office staff would be to consolidate the police dept.needs with the fire station since in many cases they work hand in hand. An addition at that location would certainly be more cost effective than purchasing land and constructing a whole new complex. Furthermore, has anyone thought about what would be done with the existing town office building. We don’t need another large abandoned building like the old General Store in Freedom Village. As a long time home owner and now a full time resident, who loves Freedom and all its charm , let’s try and find a better solution to this situation. Thank you!