2018-03-15 / Front Page

Musical chairs?

City hall offices to undergo move
By Abigail Worthing
Staff writer

SACO – The Saco City Council tabled discussions on the restructuring of city hall and its annex until a solution to make the buildings more functional and customer friendly can be found.

Saco City Hall was constructed in 1856 at 300 Main St. and was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1979.

During the last two years, city hall has been in the process of moving the public serving departments from the upper levels of city hall and the annex to the first floor to provide better service. The first floor houses the departments of finance, general assistance, city clerk, planning, code enforcement, assessment and economic development. The annex, located at 19 Cutts Ave., is located behind city hall, and is home to Saco Main Street, a nonprofit organization that supports businesses and event opportunities associated with downtown businesses.

The city’s capital program fund includes $53,535 for city hall improvements; $15,000 of which is to be used in the fiscal year 2018 budget to improve the audio and visual system for council chambers. The proposal is to use an additional $36,465 to make needed updates to city hall and the annex. According to commentary provided by City Manager Kevin Sutherland, “additional resources are needed to update the two buildings and create sufficient office space,” including retrofitting windows and workspace to improve efficiency in the finance department and upgrading the security system.

Saco Mayor Marston Lovell knows that updates to city hall will eventually be needed.

“We’re talking about a couple 19th century buildings here. We need to go through city hall and the annex with a 21st century eye.”

The proposal was met with concerns from council members at a March 5 meeting, who expressed the need for more detailed plans before allocating funds.

“We don’t want to spend money twice,” said Councilor Lynn Copeland of Ward 4, citing the need for a more extensive renovation in the annex eventually.

Copeland was also concerned with displacing the current rent paying tenant to the annex, and losing that income to the city. Saco Main Street pays $180 a month and its two year lease will end in September.

Ward 7 Councilor Nathan Johnston was also worried about using funds rashly.

“(The city) sold the building next door because we didn’t need it, and now wouldn’t we love to have that building back?” Johnston said, referring to the former Saco police station at 308 Main St., which was sold to Steppin’ Out Dance Center in 1998 for $100,000.

The council will discuss further annex and city hall changes at the council workshop at 6:30 Monday, March 19, at 6:30pm.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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