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Westport to vote on public building

WESTPORT - Westport voters will chose whether to go ahead with a proposed new $7 million municipal building June 15.

The Westport Town Board met April 13, unanimously approving a bond resolution funding the project and officially sending the decision to voters.

At a public information meeting prior to the board meeting, supervisor Dan Connell told attendees the town will immediately begin searching for grants that could help bring down the final cost if the project wins voters' approval. The town has already secured a nearly $600,000 state grant for planning the building, of which only a small amount has been spent.

"The $7 million represents the limit of what we can spend," Connell said, "but we have reason to hope that the final cost will be significantly less."

"Because of the economic situation, bids are coming in low and bond rates are down," he explained.

When asked about the annual cost to taxpayers, Connell estimated it to be as high as $2.32 per $1,000 of assessed value. But he called that figure a "worst-case scenario" based on a 25-year bond of the full $7 million at a relatively high rate of 6 percent.

Connell said the actual figure could be closer to $1.20 per thousand, based on bonding a smaller total at a lower rate.

"We already have the $600,000, so that will bring it down right from the start," he added.

If approved, the building would consolidate facilities for the Department of Public Works (DPW), the Westport Central School bus garage, the Fire Department, and the Town Offices, each of which currently occupy separate premises dating from the 1950s or earlier. The new building would be constructed on the current grounds of the DPW, on Route 22 near the northern border of the hamlet.

According to Connell, planning for the project began eight years ago when it became apparent that each of the old facilities was badly outdated and beyond feasible renovation. One of the planners' main aims, he said, has been to achieve ongoing savings for taxpayers by sharing services and materials.

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