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Old Town House Renovations Approved

A project aimed at making the Old Town House universally accessible was approved at Town Meeting.

A project aimed at making Marblehead's universally accessible, in last year's , was overwhelmingly supported by local residents at Town Meeting Tuesday night.

The $675,000 project, which calls for the installation of a three-story elevator and two handicapped bathrooms, was unanimously endorsed by the town's Board of Selectmen and passed by a margin of 456 to 30.

Among those endorsing the project Tuesday night was selectman Judie Jacobi, who said it was a shame that the Old Town House couldn't be used for local meetings, debates and gatherings.

"We could hold political debates in the same room where Elbridge Gerry and Gen. John Glover debated independence and where events were held until the 1990's," Jacobi said.

"What pride we could take in not only owning such an historic building but knowing that it was being used," Jacobi said. "How exciting it would be not only to attend an event there but to walk by and see it alive with activity." 

Before closing, Jacobi said she was "thrilled" to announce that the town's Historical Commission had agreed to donate $65,000 toward the project.

"As a result of their donation the current cost of the project has been reduced to an estimated $610,168," Jacobi said. The cost to a median Marblehead homeowner would be about $12.90 a year for the next five years.

Among those speaking out against the proposed renovation project was Barbara Anderson who said she considered it an "over and over and override."

"Every couple of years they try this again, every time the voters say no, every time we ask them what part of no don't you understand and they keep coming back and coming back," Anderson said, adding, "It's not the $12.50, it's the principle."

The Old Town House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and dates back to before the American Revolution. Tuesday's approval means the renovation project will be put to a vote in a Special Town Election next month.

Here's a closer look at last year's results:

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 below.

John Buba May 09, 2012 at 06:33 PM
This is a great idea, but not for an override. Town meeting approved over $70 MILLION to run the town next year. The $560K they need to fix the building amounts to under 1% of the town budget. Judy Jacoby made an impassioned plea to do this work for the third time - it having been rejected by the voters twice before. (What part on NO override for this does she not get?) Question: If the Selectmen and especially Judy believe that this is such an important and worthwhile project for ALL of Marblehead as she said last night, then how come she and her fellow Selectmen did not put even ONE PENNY of our 70 million dollar budget towards this most important project? Note: Prop 2 1/2 brought in about 2 million new dollars to the town this year in increased taxes and Tony told the town that he saved us $2 million by switching insurance to the GIC plan. That is $4 MILLION new dollars just this year alone and NONE of it was earmarked for this important project. We don't need an override; we need competent leaders who specialize in management not manipulation.
Lucky Pierre May 10, 2012 at 04:17 PM
How long will it be before people decide it needs underground parking ? Leave historical builidings alone..THATS why they are historical.
Barbara Anderson May 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
It's wonderful to look at, drive around, show visiting famly and other tourists. It was necessary for meetings and votings back when it was the only public building in a tiny colonial town. Now everyone votes elsewhere, in easily accessible buildings, and there are auditoriums of various sizes around the town for meetings and art exhibits. This particular over and override has become an obsession with some people who should have been paying attention to the town drains.
MHH101 May 10, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Why not utilize Abbot Hall, which is handicap accessible (e.g. has a ramp on Washington Square and an inside elevator to the 2nd floor)?
Whip 76 May 17, 2012 at 09:16 AM
Why is "The Flag" not appropriate?
JESSICA BARNETT June 04, 2012 at 02:22 PM
We are today's stewards of the Old Town House...stewards not only of its legacy but also its future. Keeping this building accessible, vibrant and accessible is our present day responsibility. Why would any one of us want to deny anyone else - resident or visitor - physical access to any public building in our town? And why would anyone choose to deny anyone else access to this particular building that is both historically significant and home to the G.A.R. and Civil War Museum located on its second floor?

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