New hall in fu­ture for town

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By CHRIS POLK cpolk@star­dem.com

ST. MICHAELS — The St. Michaels Com­mis­sion­ers voted unan­i­mously last week in fa­vor of call­ing for bids to de­mol­ish the old doc­tor’s of­fice at 800 S. Tal­bot St., with a tentative plan to build a new town hall there.

The build­ing and lot be­came the prop­erty of the town for $200,000 as of Aug. 1, ac­cord­ing to Mary­land prop­erty records.

The push to build a new town hall has been on­go­ing for more than a year, with the com­mis­sion­ers and their staff con­sid­er­ing ren­o­vat­ing the cur­rent build­ing and eye­ing lo­ca­tions in town to build a new one.

In­ad­e­quate work spa­ces at the cur­rent town hall have plagued the staff for a long time.

The build­ing at 300 Mill St. has been well main­tained, but has in­suf­fi­cient as­pects that would be ex­pen­sive to cor­rect, ac­cord­ing to a fea­si­bil­ity study con­ducted

ear­lier this year by a com­mit­tee of cit­i­zens and con­sul­tants from Crosby & As­so­ci­ates.

The wa­ter­front lo­ca­tion of the cur­rent town of­fice once was a pri­vate res­i­dence that was re­mod­eled and re­fit­ted into staff of­fices and meet­ing cham­bers for the com­mis­sion­ers.

The most press­ing prob­lem with the town’s cur­rent digs is a lack of com­plete hand­i­capped ac­cess.

Other prob­lems in­clude a lack of pri­vacy be­tween of­fices, only one meet­ing room and not enough stor­age space. The copier/print­ing room has been dou­bling as a sec­ond meet­ing room.

Ac­cord­ing to law, if all those in­suf­fi­cien­cies were ad­dressed at once, the build­ing would be sub­ject to crit­i­cal area reg­u­la­tions and would need to be raised out of the flood­plain and new foun­da­tions con­structed.

The staff and contents of the build­ing would need to be re­moved dur­ing that process.

Con­sul­tants worked out sev­eral sce­nar­ios and ul­ti­mately came to the con­clu­sion that con­struct­ing a new one-story town hall would be the most cost-ef­fec­tive so­lu­tion.

Com­mis­sion­ers have agreed the old doc­tor’s of­fice prop­erty is the best place for the new town hall.

The old doc­tor’s of­fice prop­erty fronts on Tal­bot Street and stretches from Maple Av­enue to Bound­ary Lane. It is listed as hav­ing 19,110 square feet of prop­erty with a 4,142-square-foot build­ing.

Many of those in town re­mem­ber when it housed the med­i­cal prac­tice of Dr. Christine Galan and Dr. Wil­liam Bre­mer in the 1990s.

Com­mis­sioner Roy My­ers said the back part of the build­ing was built about 1919 to 1920, and it has been added onto again and again.

“I’ve been through it a num­ber of times, and the build­ing is in re­ally bad shape,” My­ers said at the town’s Aug. 23 meet­ing.

“I went through the base­ment — it’s full of wa­ter,” he said, adding that when he went up to the at­tic and the sec­ond floor, he found much of it had been torn apart.

“I’ve walked it two or three times in the last 10 days,” Com­mis­sioner Michael Bibb said. “There’s just no way of even think­ing to re­hab that back sec­tion. The build­ing is just too old. It’s in too poor a con­di­tion.”

Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Boos in­di­cated he had not heard towns­folk ex­press­ing many opin­ions so far on the new town of­fice. He had got­ten feed­back from only one town res­i­dent so far.

The com­mis­sion­ers dis­cussed strip­ping out the old his­toric win­dows, doors and trim, and sell­ing them or do­nat­ing them to the Habi­tat for Hu­man­ity Chop­tank Re­Store.

An­other sug­ges­tion was to let the St. Michaels po­lice and fire de­part­ments con­duct some tac­ti­cal train­ing in the build­ing be­fore the de­mo­li­tion.

One by one, the com­mis­sion­ers agreed with get­ting the town man­ager, Jean Weis­man, to call for bids to have the build­ing razed, base­ment filled in and land­scape graded.

My­ers said the prop­erty is a prime lo­ca­tion to place a govern­ment build­ing that would be­come a “show­place,” eas­ily viewed as peo­ple en­ter town on state Route 33 from the south­east.

“One of the things the build­ing com­mit­tee rec­om­mended to us is to have a com­pe­ti­tion over, say, what the build­ing would look like,” My­ers said.

He said a call could go out to ar­chi­tects that the town is con­duct­ing a com­pe­ti­tion for the de­sign of the new St. Michaels town hall.

He said the de­ci­sion could be a com­mu­nity ef­fort, with town res­i­dents able to view com­pe­ti­tion en­tries and give their opin­ions.

There is also the mat­ter of what to do with the cur­rent town hall, which is on one wa­ter­front acre ad­ja­cent to the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Mar­itime Mu­seum.

Boos said the town orig­i­nally bought the prop­erty with Pro­gram Open Space funds from the state.

He said the state would pre­fer that the cur­rent town hall also be de­mol­ished and the acre turned into a wa­ter­front park for the town. Part of that prop­erty al­ready has been named Hol­lis Park.

Af­ter some dis­cus­sion, the com­mis­sion­ers came up with the idea of in­clud­ing the de­sign for the new wa­ter­front park in the ar­chi­tec­tural com­pe­ti­tion.

“We want to have your ideas of what this should look like as a town hall,” Boos sug­gested they tell the ar­chi­tects. “And in con­junc­tion with that, while you are do­ing that, be­cause this is no longer go­ing to be a town hall, we want your view of what this should be as a water­side park as a re­place­ment for the town hall.”

“So to­gether with de­sign­ing that, de­sign this, too,” Com­mis­sioner Joyce Har­rod said.

Com­mis­sioner Jaime Win­don said she had not been on the com­mis­sion when the last town hall was ren­o­vated, but she trusted the judge­ment of those who had been through the re­pur­pos­ing of homes into pub­lic build­ings and un­der­stood it had not worked well.

She said St. Michaels was a his­toric town that had done a great job of restor­ing its his­toric dis­trict.

The pro­posed lo­ca­tion of the new town hall, at 800 S. Tal­bot St., is out­side the town’s his­toric dis­trict.

The com­mis­sion­ers voted unan­i­mously at the Aug. 23 meet­ing to call for bids to de­mol­ish the old doc­tors of­fice; to es­tab­lish a com­pe­ti­tion for ar­chi­tects to de­sign the new town hall; and, along with that com­pe­ti­tion, de­sign a new water­side park at the lo­ca­tion of the cur­rent town hall.

The com­mis­sion­ers’ next work ses­sion and leg­isla­tive meet­ing will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Mill Street lo­ca­tion. Fol­low me on Twit­ter @chrisp_s­tar­dem. Email me at cpolk@star­dem.com.

PHOTO BY CHRIS POLK

The cur­rent wa­ter­front St. Michaels Town Of­fice on Mill Street, in the back­ground, will close and the of­fices will move to a newly con­structed build­ing on Tal­bot Street, if the town’s plans go well. Com­mis­sion­ers are call­ing for bids to de­mol­ish the old doc­tor’s of­fice on Tal­bot Street, pre­par­ing the prop­erty to con­struct a new town hall there.

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