Having recently served on the Building and Facilities Committee for the Town of Litchfield, we reviewed many options for the next generation of a Town Hall for the community of Litchfield. We were the second such committee constituted in the recent five years to study the issue and recommend a course of action to the community. The minutes of both committees remain on file to any interested party.
Enter The Litchfield Preservation Trust proffering the former courthouse building to serve as a cornerstone of a new Town Hall. At the time each committee was duly constituted, converting this building to a Town Hall was not an option; accordingly, a new committee has been formed to compare and contrast this option against prior findings.
In offering my unsolicited opinion (something I'm good at), a purpose built, new building, constructed on the land behind the existing Town Hall remains the best option for the following reasons:
1) It is very expensive to salvage an older building. Indeed the State of Connecticut saved $2.5MM by not updating the old courthouse, never mind they spent $100MM+ in Torrington…..a different story.
2) A new purpose built structure, tailored to meet the needs of the community for the next 50 years with modern office configurations and amenities appears preferable as compared to the potential sub-par alternative of having to deal with the many constraints of an adaptive reuse of a stone building now 100year + even before you get to energy efficiency.
3) The courthouse building could be returned to the tax rolls and adapted for some as-yet imagined use, perhaps a performing arts center or a local music venue, good for all West Street merchants and the community as a whole.
4) The Bantam Annex should finally be disposed with. In the hands of a private developer, the community would benefit by returning this property to the tax rolls.
5) Were the courthouse converted to serve as a new Town Hall, merchants on West Street would be adversely affected due to the diminution of available parking (now scarce already).
6) The cost building a new structure or renovating the courthouse, as reported in several news articles, is about equal at $5.2MM.
7) As for the current owners of the courthouse, it is reasonable they should have a say in the final project but not remain as tax exempt owners ad infinitum (as is the case on the former Talbot's building). Let's get these properties back on the tax rolls least we wake up and find ourselves the moral equivalent of Hartford where all properties are owned by the State of Connecticut and no one pays any tax.