I emailed the results of the article 30 ballot referendum to Andy Smith from the UNH Survey Center, here’s what he had to say:
Ouch! Seems like “none of the above” is the answer! From our work with you and these results, it seems the voters understand that restoring Brewster Hall is a costly, yet eventually inefficient and nonfunctional use of money. But there is not support for the needed upgrade of city offices to a new/different building. I would recommend joining forces with town government to push for a lowest cost solution to the town office space problem, and separate that from anything to do with Brewster Hall. Let the preservationists have a go at that on their own, once the useful town functions have been separated out. I don’t think they’ll convince enough voters to throw good money after bad for an old, but not particularly useful building.Good luck!
As I recall Joyce Davis once said that the mission statement of the Friends of Brewster Hall is to restore Brewster Hall for use as Town Offices. That’s what question 30(a) asked of the voters, and only 48% said yes. It would take 60% to get the job done and the voters have rejected that twice. Now we know why. Also, the voters made it clear that they want to see significant private funding for any restoration, That’s not likely if the ultimate primary use is town offices.
So you have to wonder what’s going to happen. Appropriating a couple hundred thousand a year is going to get old fast. You can only call it a temporary fix for so long before people start to see that it’s like owning a boat – times 1000. Besides, many of the things that have to be done for the long term require that the place be vacated.
At this point, real leadership would try to put together a real task force with the goal of separating the building preservation from town office needs. We wouldn’t be the first town to decide that the old town hall was worth keeping for posterity but not viable as town offices.
The library trustees have been reaching out to other groups like seniors and users of the old community center to include their needs in planning their expansion. They seem to understand that they will need broad based support to do anything. The old library building is not in bad shape, and the structural issues with the roof could be easily and cheaply solved with minor steel work and a few internal columns. Rather than tear it down, why not fix it for use as offices?