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Should the Old Town House Be Renovated?

You tell us - should an elevator and handicapped bathrooms be installed in the Old Town House?

A proposed project aimed at making Marblehead's universally accessible, in last year's , will be revisited at Town Meeting next month.

The $667,000 project, which calls for the installation of a three-story elevator and two handicapped bathrooms, was the only question voted down in last year's election. It was defeated 3,567 to 2,530.

The Old Town House dates back to before the American Revolution and is not currently handicapped accessible, meaning it cannot be used for public meetings or as a polling location, as it had been for more than two centuries.

At last year's Town Meeting, residents were shown a brief PowerPoint presentation detailing plans to make the building accessible to all residents and those in attendance voted in favor of appropriating $667,793 for it by an overwhelming margin of 571 to 45. 

At the meeting, proponents for the accessibility project argued that the cost to each Marblehead household would only be about $64 to fund the project and some shared stories of occasions when disabled town residents and visitors couldn't tour the building because they simply couldn't get up the stairs.

Those speaking out against the renovations argued that the project was unnecessary and questioned whether or not the 285-year-old building is strong enough to support a modern elevator system.

2011 Special Town Election results, Question 1, precinct-by-precinct:

Precinct P1 P2 P3 P4 P5 P6 P7 TOTAL Yes 476 269 255 365 413 439 313 2,530 No 426 449 399 551 525 576 641 3,567

Where do you stand on this issue? Let us know by sharing your opinion in our comments section and by voting in the poll below.

Peter Lake, LAKE Real Estate April 23, 2012 at 12:24 PM
Update the Old Town House? Well, the photo shows an update from about 1895, when electricity lit the streetlight outside the building. If we wanted to keep the building in its original state then we ought to go back to candles. When the building was built the lifespan of local citizens was short enough that the aged and handicapped were a much smaller percentage of the population. But we accepted electricity and we ought to consider the aging population when we vote on this issue.
Chris Johnston April 23, 2012 at 12:54 PM
There is no question that the Town House renovation project should go ahead. This is one of the most historically important buildings in Marblehead, used by generations of Marbleheaders for public meetings since before the Revolution. We are now unable to use it for public meetings because of lack of handicap access, which needs to be corrected. The design of the renovations is extremely well done, preserving the aesthetics of the building both outside and in. Keep in mind that the Town House has undergone many renovations and changes over the years, not the least of which is when it was raised up and put upon the present granite foundation in the mid-1800's. A change now which preserves the character and aesthetics of the building is very appropriate. As Chairman of the Town of Marblehead Historical Commission and as a town resident, I strongly support this project. Chris Johnston
louise April 23, 2012 at 01:30 PM
It's not the updating that I take issue with, it's the price tag. At $667,793 it seems fairly obvious to me that this renovation reaches far beyond simply making the Old Town House accessible. Admittedly, I haven't been in the building in quite some time & perhaps the entire interior needs to be renovated, but that is not what I've heard proposed. I suspect public projects, regardless of their size, have become opportunities to grab far more money than is actually necessary to complete the announced task. A more reasonable budget &/or access to the construction documents would definitely help turn me around. I agree that making the Old Town House accessible is something that should be completed but something doesn't smell quite right with this particular proposal.
Mouth of the Harbor April 23, 2012 at 01:43 PM
You want to live in Marblehead but don't want to preserve it? Can a 285 year old building handle a elevator? Yes it can! It will sit on a foundation and that 285 year old building will be around longer than your conventionally built house.
Day M. Gotschall April 23, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I echo Chris Johnston's comments. I would like to address all residents who live outside the Historic District. Being newcomers to Marblehead in 1969, my husband (Indiana) and I (NJ) settled on the "Edge of Old Town". From day one, we absorbed the history and traditions of Marblehead first by celebrating Old North's 350th Anniversary; working on the 1976 Bi-Centennial, through our children's fourth grade unit on Marblehead history, to the year-long events of "Marblehead Celebrates 350 Years of Democracy - 1649-1999", through to today when we have an opportunity to make one of Marblehead's most treasured buildings available to all citizens. Living outside the Historic District for many years, many of us work outside the community and rarely get downtown...as if it did not exist and therefore not feeling the importance of preserving our historic buildings and landmarks. Marblehead's history is key to American history...please support this project by voting in favor at Town Meeting Monday, May 7th.
MHH101 April 23, 2012 at 05:10 PM
The addition of a permanent structural improvement or the restoration of some aspect of a property that will either enhance the property's overall value, utility or increases its useful life is a capital improvement. Performing routine actions which keeps property in working order (known as scheduled maintenance) or prevent trouble from arising (preventive maintenance) should be planned maintenance. Our town departments never plan and/or budget for for the above, let its property fall into disrepair, because they seem to think that its tax payers are an endless source of revenues (a.k.a overrides).
Sharon Thibodeau April 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM
It should definitely be renovated. I agree with Chris Johnston in his support of this project. It's a disgrace that one of the most historically important buildings in town is closed to the public. For less than the cost of dinner out per household or a gallon of bottom paint, this project can go ahead. Shame on Marblehead if this doesn't pass this year.
Sheila McCredy April 23, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Hear! Hear! Well put, M Gotschall. "when we have the opportunity to make one of Marblehead's most treasured buildings AVAILABLE TO ALL OF ITS CITIZENS," WE SHOULD TAKE IT. PLEASE VOTE. And please VOTE YES for this article! Just one more thing, please: "on the Edge of THE Old Town" Thank you for your support.
William Peach April 24, 2012 at 02:04 PM
It should but we should not have to do it through and over ride. It is not that much money that it can't be planned for in our annual budget. Maybe we can use the money we saved on snow plowing this year for it!
John Buba April 24, 2012 at 03:00 PM
This issue has failed twice, not because it is a bad idea, but because the pubic realizes that regular maintenance is an ongoing cost, not something to fund via an override. It is not like lightening struck the building; it just was allowed to deteriorate. That is the Selectmen's fault and now they want you to bail them out while they spend more and more money on salaries and benefits (over 80% of the budget.) NO overrides for operating expenses. The same thing goes for the drains override. Yes we need them; but the town NEVER plans to fix things that have a useful life. They wait for an emergency and then claim they need an override. Yet every year they get millions more from Prop 2 1/2 and just as quickly as they get it they spend it on salaries and benefits.
Sheila McCredy April 26, 2012 at 02:07 AM
WHIP! Mr. Bubba, DOWN BUCKET: Making the Town House "AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE" is NOT a maintenance issue! NEW RENOVATIONS are needed to make this possible. Our selectmen have never been perfect but they have ALWAYS had OUR interest at heart and do their job well. I have also concluded that your not a town employee. With the cost of living going up, wages and benefits need to keep pace. I'm sure you would want that for yourself. Right? To all town employees, your not perfect either, but KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! Our town is not having the financial difficulties that some of our neighbors are experiencing. Thanks to good fiscal responsibility. I can't believe the restraint I am using to write this reply. I'm a senior citizen on a limited income, a taxpayer, a townie, and I really take exception to the way you think about our town and how it's run. It's very negative. Are you sure Marblehead is right for you? Put your vote where your mouth is, and come to TOWN MEETING - and the POLLS. This your chance. OK, everyone, UP FOR AIR

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