LITTLETON — This summer, residents visiting the municipal offices should prepare for a change.
As Littleton enters into a one-year lease to continue renting office space on the upper floor of the Bank of New Hampshire, town officials have learned that renovation work on that floor is now expected to be more intensive than originally thought.
To avoid major disruption to town operations, the plan is to move the municipal offices into a temporary office trailer or trailers set up in the parking lot below for a roughly 10-week period expected to begin around June.
During Monday’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting, Bank of New Hampshire president and CEO Chris Logan detailed the plan, which the board agreed to.
The bank is embarking on a major HVAC and life-safety upgrade at its building at 125 Main St.
But the scale of that work, initially projected at three weeks and now several times that length, prompted him to reach out to Littleton Select Board member Carrie Gendreau last weekend, after speaking with the bank’s general contractor the day before
“The bottom line is the disruption to our tenants is going to be much greater than was initially projected,” said Logan.
Logan said the bank and town can enter into the one-year lease, which the board did on Monday, but the bank won’t begin charging the town until the municipal offices are moved back onto the upper floor, which is expected to be by October.
The best thing is to leave the lease terms intact as they are and get through the construction, he said.
“To me, it’s not right or fair to charge the town a different rate and have all sorts of disruption with the construction project,” said Logan.
As much as all desks and town office equipment could be covered in plastic, there will still be dirt and dust, making the trailer option the better one, he said.
The office trailer will be 64 by 32 feet and outfitted with air conditiong, heating, and restrooms.
Using the trailer will still be disruptive, but less so, and it will reduce what would be about a 30-week project if the town offices were still occupied during the day to a roughly 10-week project with the space unoccupied and the contractor then able to make swifter headway, he said.
“In the end, I think it will be great for the town, a new HVAC system, heating and cooling, and brand new lights and all that,” said Logan.
Gendreau said the trailers would accommodate those with disabilities.
Town office staff will still be able to access the upper-floor offices if they need to retrieve something, she said.
“The other thing we talked about was educating the taxpayers, the public, that this is going to be a transition for a short period of time, a season,” said Gendreau.
The goal is to have town office staff back in the municipal offices certainly before November, with no worries about having to use the trailers in the snow, said Logan.
Select Board member Linda MacNeil asked how disruptive it will be for town employees and townspeople doing business at the municipal office.
“It may be challenging in the beginning, but if you think of trying to take care of customers and doing their job with the construction going on around them this will be a much more feasible solution,” said Littleton Town Manager Jim Gleason.
“I think the trailer is a much better option,” said Logan. “It shortens the time frame by a third and is much less intrusive.”
He estimates three to five days to get the trailers wired and ready for use by town staff.
The board voted 3-0 to move forward with the office trailer plan.
The one-year lease that the board signed after a 3-0 vote will take effect July 1, but all payments by Littleton will remain suspended until staff moves back into the town offices.
On Thursday, Gendreau said, “I’m so appreciative that the bank is willing to help us out with this and will not charge us any rent during this time. We did sign the lease and it will be effective once we move back into the building.”
The town has been renting the Bank of New Hampshire space for about two decades.
Last year, the bank informed the town that the lease that had been $8,100 a year would increase to $43,120 a year based on the current market value of the space, though the town, which does business with the bank, would be eligible for a 20-percent discount, which would reduce the lease to the $35,000 range.
Town officials are mulling options, including continuing to lease the Bank of New Hampshire space or finding another home for the municipal offices that the town could own.
“There are so many factors that go into it,” said Gendreau. “One, we have to make sure we have plenty of parking. And right now, I think we have about 4,500 square feet [of office space]. We really can’t go much smaller than that. It limits what we can do.”