Volunteer Consultants Offer Perspective on Article 26 Committee’s Work

Freedom – October 31, 2009 — A year ago, a group of Freedom residents became concerned at what they heard about intentions to acquire land and build new municipal buildings well outside the existing village.

They were worried about the effects of moving the functions of town government away from the historic center. They felt that such a move would leave that part of the community without a heart and also leave some attractive Victorian buildings without any viable alternative use, and they organized themselves under the title Freedom Cares.

Freedom Cares sent out a search for any local resident who was a professional in historic architecture. We responded and volunteered because we have particularly relevant architectural and municipal planning experience and are long-time Freedom property owners.

In April the Selectmen set up the Article 26 Committee to review and evaluate options for re-housing the town offices, town hall, police and fire departments, and we have been attending the public hearings of this committee.

The Article 26 Committee advertised first for qualified consulting firms, and then requested proposals from three of the firms to make cost evaluations for the above, considering a range of options. These included the possibility of locating all new buildings on an 11-acre site that is three miles from the village center on Ossipee Lake Road. The site would be acquired for the purpose.

The professional consulting firm SMP was appointed in August, and on September 1st the head of the firm, Eric Palson, attended a meeting for briefing. We presented a report, based on surveys and drawings which showed that it would be possible to meet all the town’s office requirements by renovation and addition to the existing Old School House building. This currently houses the police department as well as the town offices. We also showed that the fire station site was capable of accommodating all police and fire department requirements.

On September 24th, Mr. Palson laid out his firm’s review of the current town buildings and what would be needed to bring them up to code; and on October 8th he reviewed the 2006 assessment of space needs which had been prepared by town employees at that time. He then compared this with his updated schedule and applied these space needs in different combinations to the various sites available.

There was scope for economies which could be achieved by combining departments, most notably the police and fire departments. He noted that the existing Town Hall needs little to be brought up to code, and broadly meets the town’s needs for a large meeting hall.

On October 22nd the committee reviewed eight options described by Mr. Palson for distributing town functions in different ways, and eliminated three of them. There was discussion about the detailed possibilities for adding new floor space and providing better parking in the vicinity of the existing Town Office building, including the possible purchase of two small parcels of land from adjoining owners.

There was also detailed discussion about the existing fire station site, the possible accession of land to the east of it, and the layout and landscaping of additional buildings on this site. The existing fire station would have to be kept in use throughout the construction period.

On November 3rd the committee shall meet to continue the discussion of the options available.

Jean and Ian Marshall are long-time Berry Bay property owners with backgrounds in architecture and municipal planning.

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