Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen contemplating upgrades to town hall

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, July 12, 2023

GRANITE QUARRY — The Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen discussed the planned changes to the town hall, a building that has not been updated in almost 30 years.

The discussion Monday night turned into the board trying to find creative ideas to fund the construction when town Manager Larry Smith advised them that the estimated cost for the updates is $6 million.

“My first question is why did it go up to six million dollars? It’s getting expensive now. That’s a little bit ridiculous, I’m sorry,” said Alderman Jim Constantino when first presented with the cost.

Smith explained that the number was simply the best estimate from the architect hired by the town to assess the old town hall and draw up plans for a new one. He stated that the number was most likely the worst-case scenario presented by the architect.

Smith also advised the board on how best to receive the funds to pay for the upgrades. He said he saw two options to move forward with paying for the project. The first was for the town to get a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan that would require annual payments of $300,000 to $400,000. The second was for the town to apply for money from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

With the price tag being so large, the members of the Board of Aldermen began to explore other ideas for updating the town hall. Mayor Pro-Tem John Linker theorized about building a second building and using the current town hall as either a rental for private businesses or as a stand-alone building for the fire department and other departments.

Another idea proposed by the town attorney, Zachary Moretz, was for the town to find a private developer to fund the new town hall building. The private developer would then divide the new building into multiple sections and sell one to the town and rent out the other to private companies.

“There is land for sale at the side of us all the way over to Church Street. And if we were to take this building and purchase the land all the way out, and create some type of private or public partnership with a developer, it could become the trickle effect of not just getting a completed town hall and doing the renovation here, but it could create that downtown development that’s been so desperately needed in our community,” Mayor Brittany Barnhardt said.

The main reason for looking into alternative options was to keep the possible annual loan payments off of the town’s books. Barnhardt stated that she wanted to keep the liability for payments off of the town’s citizens.

At the end of the discussion, the board asked for more time to fully flesh out any alternative ideas and make sure they give due consideration to any suggestions that can help the town reduce the amount of money spent on updating the town hall. The board voted to continue discussing possible solutions indefinitely until they reach a conclusion.