NEW SHARON — Residents at a special town meeting Monday rejected a proposed $1.8 million project to construct a fire station and town office on the Town Office site. The vote was 58-71.

Most residents who spoke against the proposal pointed to the cost and the fact that many residents are struggling to pay their bills.

In a presentation to voters, Selectman Travis Pond noted the Town Office and Fire Station are in poor condition. For more than 30 years, the town has been grappling with whether or not to replace the Fire Station.

Pond said the Fire Station is not sized for modern-day apparatus. It was constructed in the early 1800s. Due to lack of space, files and training materials are housed at the Town Office.

The building has been deemed structurally sound, but the roof needs to be replaced, Pond said.

The Town Office once housed New Sharon High School and was constructed around 1949. It has a mold problem, Pond said, and the kitchen, restrooms and other rooms downstairs aren’t usable.

“There is little insulation in the walls and ceilings, which results in extremely high energy bills,” he said.

Selectman Lorna Nichols was asked about the mold and said an air quality test was done in 2016.

“It was acceptable for the current use,” she said. “They did find trace amounts of mold in the air, which is of concern.”

The proposal was to construct a 10,500-square-foot building on the site of the Town Office. Once the new building was operational, the Town Office would be slated for demolition.

The proposed fire station and town office would have had room for the town’s historical society artifacts, which are housed at the Town Office. One resident suggested that the Historical Society could be housed at the Fire Station after the new Town Office was built to save the town money.

“The idea is to contain everything in one building,” Darlene Power, chairwoman of the Historical Society, said. “If the Historical Society is not included, I’m taking my crew and walking.”

A total of $308,800 in fire station reserve funds was available for the project. The rest would have been funded through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loan at 3.5 percent interest over 30 years, meaning the town would have paid $96,993.60 per year in debt service.

The town’s tax rate is $16.10. If the project had been approved, the tax rate would have increased to $17.10.

“New Sharon financially is in a really great place compared with towns our size,” Treasurer Erin Norton said. “We have no debt. That’s unusual.”

Selectmen and the building committee decided to present the proposal for a new building, because renovating the facilities would have cost about the same amount for a much shorter life expectancy, Pond said.

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