LITTLETON — Owing partly to a late start, the plan to move the town offices into a temporary office trailer for the summer and into autumn has been scotched for a new plan, which will be less disruptive to residents and municipal office staff.
Located for nearly two decades in about 4,400 square feet of space on the second floor of the Bank of New Hampshire building, at 125 Main St., the town offices will soon be split between the second and third floors after the third-floor tenant leaves and the bank, which owns the building, embarks on extensive renovations that are expected to last about six months, provided there are no shortages of labor and materials.
In June, following a rent increase that moves the space to near its current market value (from $8,100 annually to $34,512 a year, which represents a 20-percent discount for the town doing business with the bank), the Select Board signed a one-year lease with Bank of New Hampshire, to last until June 30, 2023.
In the meantime, the board is looking to see which properties are available in Littleton that could serve as a new home for the municipal offices and that the town could possibly own for the long-term with taxpayer savings.
The renovations that had been planned to begin earlier this summer began late because of supply chain issues, Cydney Shapleigh, executive vice president of wealth management and retailing banking officer with the Bank of New Hampshire, said to Select Board members during their July 25 meeting.
The third-floor tenant is the Samaha Russell Hodgdon law firm, which will be vacating its space by Aug. 31, she said.
The first floor, where the bank is located, has a section whose footprint is being shrunk to create 1,650 square feet of retail space for rent that the bank will begin to market later this year, said Shapleigh.
While the third-floor space will be vacated by Aug. 31, she said the bank will not be able to market that space or put it up for lease until the HVAC system, lights and ceilings have been replaced, she said.
Initially, the bank had been planning to renovate the second and third floors simultaneously, but with the third-floor tenant moving out altogether the work can now be phased and the bank can offer the town the space on the third floor when it is complete while the second floor is being renovated, rather than lease the office trailers, which would come at a $100,000 cost even before a hookup, said Shapleigh.
Select Board member Linda MacNeil called it advantageous for both the town and for the bank, which will save money.
“Correct,” said Shapleigh. “Now, we’ll be able to open up the third floor and split the town between those two floors and there will be far less disruption for the tenants, for the employees, and for the people in the town of Littleton.”
“It’s better to be in a building than in a trailer,” said Bank of New Hampshire President Chris Logan.
Select Board member Carrie Gendreau called it a “win win.”
The current plan will put the project length at about six months, said Shapleigh.
“Now, we say that barring any issues with staffing, which we all know is a challenge, as well as any additional material issues,” she said. “We don’t have any control over that.”
“I’m comfortable with what we have at the moment,” said MacNeil.
During the board’s July 13 work session, Board Chairman Roger Emerson said there is the possibility of using the town-owned building that houses the Littleton Senior Center as a location for the new municipal offices, with considerations about the mobility of the seniors getting to the senior center, as well as traffic and road access issues entering and leaving Riverglen Lane.
A second option discussed is leasing or purchasing temporary buildings to put up at the West Main Street campus that houses the fire, police and highway departments until, if or when, taxpayers decide to construct a permanent building in the same area, which would then form a municipal campus.
A third option is to lease another location for two or three years while determining a location and raising money for a permanent town building, with possible locations at the REL Commons Plaza along Meadow Street or in the same building as Harbor Freight farther up on Meadow Street.
A fourth option being considered is to remain in the Bank of New Hampshire building, where Select Board members said the bank is willing to continue working with the town and has provided the town with a lower per-square-footage rate than current market value.