For more than a decade, Vergennes Township has owned a 20-acre parcel on Lincoln Lake Ave. north of Fallasburg Park Dr. It was purchased in 2007 with the intent of building a new township hall there someday.
However, in the course of making plans for that new building, a better deal presented itself. The former Kingdom Hall, also located on Lincoln Lake Ave., went up for sale, and township officials quickly realized it would be perfect for both their needs and their budget. They purchased the 3-acre property for $209,900 on May 3, 2019, and if all goes well, township offices will move into it before the end of the year.
Current Township Hall “Limping Along”
Township officials have known for years that the current hall on Bailey Dr. is inadequate. Parking is sparse, and the lot’s configuration can make it difficult to maneuver on busy election days. The meeting room is small, the mechanical systems are inefficient and the phones are 20 years old. Staff has worked hard to keep the building in good shape – from plugging drafts to buying phone parts off eBay since new components for the system are no longer made.
“We’ve been limping this building along,” says Vergennes Township Clerk Heather Hoffman. As an older building, it was constructed long before current building codes and accessibility standards were put into place. It also lacks the energy efficiency of newer buildings. “It was an old Grange Hall, but it doesn’t have any historic designation,” according to Hoffman.
Renovation Cheaper Than New Building
While Vergennes Township had already started drawing up plans for a new building on the 20-acre parcel, Hoffman says using the former Kingdom Hall will save taxpayers a significant amount of money. “Sometimes you have to scrap [what was planned] to move forward with something more fiscally sound,” she explains.
The township originally thought it could build a new hall for less than $1 million. However, as it got into the construction planning process, it quickly became obvious it would cost closer to $1.5 million. The groundwork alone was estimated at $256,000. “That was just to move dirt, put in parking and a retention pond,” Hoffman says.
Instead of spending all that money on a new building, the township feels they can nearly double the size of the Kingdom Hall building for less. An addition will take the existing building from 3,100 square feet to 5,800 square feet at an expected cost of about $700,000. Including the purchase price, township officials expect to save taxpayers around $500,000 by renovating rather than building a new hall.
In addition to office space, the new Vergennes Township Hall will include a community gathering space that can be rented out by residents for what is expected to be a nominal fee.
Future of Land, Old Hall Uncertain
By shifting the township offices to the former Kingdom Hall site, local officials will need to decide what to do with the 20-acre parcel as well as the old township hall building.
Hoffman says it’s too early to know how township board members will want to proceed, but she wouldn’t be surprised if they sell some or all of the 20-acre parcel. That land was paid off five years after its purchase, and its sale would go a long way toward paying for renovations to the new building. “The township doesn’t like to hold debt,” Hoffman notes.
Stay tuned for more details on when Vergennes Township will officially make the move. “It’s all going to depend on when our plans are finalized,” Hoffman says. However, if all goes well, township voters will be queuing up to cast their ballots in a roomy and modern new space this November.