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Geneva town hall reconstruction halted

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Kevin Hoffman
March 29, 2011
— Geneva town officials must reconsider how to approach reconstruction of the town hall after a state inspector found multiple building violations during a February visit.

The town board is expected to discuss its options in April after state Department of Commerce inspector Charlotte Martin noted part of the building's ventilation and exit lighting was inadequate.


Until then, repairs to damage caused by a fire this winter that spread from a police car to a corner of the building were put on hold. Town Chairman Dan Lauderdale said a hutch covering a stairwell to the lower level was the only reconstruction unfinished, but that plan likely will be scrapped.


Martin noted the previous hutch, destroyed in the fire, was built "without approval and did not comply with the landing requirements for stairways."


Geneva's town hall has been the center of a political firestorm for at least two years. The building is nearly 80 years old, creating several safety hazards, Lauderdale said. February's fire revealed a significant crack in the foundation and an electrical box enclosed by drywall.


Lauderdale supports building a new town hall, but there's opposition among the board and residents. The board created an ad-hoc committee in 2008 to research borrowing up to $2 million to acquire land and construct a town hall, but Lauderdale said he's confident the town would need to borrow less than $1 million.


He said the latest developments likely would reinvigorate that discussion, but the board first must decide how to proceed.


Audrey Boss, town building inspector, presented the state's findings to the board last week. Lauderdale said he will seek bids to replace about a dozen exit lights and add four more equipped with battery back-ups.


Martin's report indicated ventilation for the lower floor was inadequate. That's where the town clerk, chairman and building inspector offices are located.


The town also must submit plans to the state department regarding alterations made to the building in 1992, which included a handicap-accessible ramp to the upper level.


The town made those changes without review and approval from the state, according to Martin's report.


Lauderdale said he's unsure if staff will be able to continue to occupy the lower level of the town hall or if they'll be forced to move to another location. He said they might get a deadline to address the issues or instead receive citations.


It's unclear where the staff would move if they are unable to remain at the town hall.


The board will discuss its options at its April 11 meeting.



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