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How Should the Town Pay for the $2.1M Repairs to Abbot Hall?

The clock tower at Abbot Hall is in need of $2.1 million worth of repairs, town officials say. Residents seem eager to have the repairs done, but how to pay for it? An override? Private donations? Some kind of combination?

Repairing Marblehead's trademark Abbot Hall clock tower will cost $2.1 million — and it may take most of 2014 to fix the extensive damage caused by weather over the last 137 years, the Board of Selectmen were told at their meeting Wednesday night.

And it could cost much more if the state Architectural Access Board does not grant variances, as it did with the Old Town House, that would require the town to make Abbot Hall more handicapped accessible.

The news has town residents buzzing about the cost, the duty to protect the iconic building and ways to pay for it aside from an override.

"I'm sure there will be many people in the community who will be prepared to donate money to the repairs in exchange for being included in a brass plaque to mark the renovation," wrote Ben Young in a comment here on Marblehead Patch.

Several people wondered why there's so much differed maintenance on the tower.

"I'm happy to contribute but why haven't these repairs [been] done over the decades?"

There was plenty of discussion of the issue over at the All Marblehead Facebook page, including one commenter who wrote:

"One way or another it needs to be fixed, it's historic landmark. Ask the residents of Marblehead to each donate $25.00 towards the repairs but give everyone a clear explanation as to why the tower needs repair and why the cost is so HIGH."

So what are your thoughts now that the price tag has been made public? Share them in the comments section below.

John Buba February 16, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Each year due to Prop 2 1/2 the town automatically takes about $2 MILLION MORE IN TAXES. If the town borrows 2.1 million to fix Abbot Hall over 20 years at 3.5% the yearly payment is just about $140,000 per year; or about 7% of the NEW tax money. Put another way the selectmen can fix this themselves WITHOUT AN OVERRIDE if they just allocate 7% of the NEW tax money to this most important cause. However the Selectmen have a policy (that is good for them, but bad for us) where they do not spend regular property tax money on long term expenses. They spend ALL the tax money on yearly expenses and DEMAND overrides to fix big ticket items. Just call the selectmen at 781-631-0000 and tell them "They let the town's great landmark fall apart, they can use our regular tax money to fix it." And do not be fooled by their claims that spending this 7% of the new taxes on town hall will cause your house to burn down and your streets to be overrun with criminals and you kids to become dumb. - as they usually do with threats to cut fire, police, and teachers.
Walter Horan February 17, 2013 at 03:34 PM
Pay for the repairs out of our operating funds. The building maintenance account should pick up most of the work. We could do the repairs in stages over a ten year period.(Since there has been 137 years of neglect, we shouldn't have to do all the needed repairs immediately.) If necsessary take money from the free cash or "rainy day" fund. It does not sound like responsible financial management for the Town to request an override every year.
MHH101 February 17, 2013 at 09:53 PM
Thank you Mr. Buba.........for proposing an excellent and sound solution. Next up will be an override for the Gerry school (e.g. currently rated by the Commonwealth as one one of the worst schools in need of significant repairs). Oh my, we passed an override and built a new High school, because the old school was beyond repair and increased the classroom space by 20% (e.g. altough the recent census found that the town's population fell 5%). Then magically, another override appeared, to renovate the former building we were told was NFG, into a Middle school (e.g. was near being named "Marblehead Academy"). Ten another override, to renovate the former Middle school into an Elementary school....followed by yet another to build a new Glover school (e.g. in the midst of one of the town's most busy/dangerous traffic intersections). Meanwhile, a Charter school opens (e.g. despite a falling population). Marblehead was a once, well run town (e.g. meaning fiscal responsibly and lower taxes than neighboring towns such as Swampscott, Salem etc., that access .a higher tax rate to businesses that make money based on location/services provided. Don't forget...it's about PIT, being what your property is worth (and the IT means interest and taxes). Our Select Persons' or Committees don't understand (e.g. reelection) , the least we can do is look to the touristsas many of other 'smart' cash strapped towns have done).
SJBarnard February 17, 2013 at 09:59 PM
I'm fine paying for the repairs, but if it's going to cost more because we have to make it ADA compliant, then tear it down. I'm sick of the town being screwed by ADA.

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