Officials plan to burn Oakland Town HallFall colors won’t be the only thing blazing in the town of Oakland Saturday. The town hall will be burned to the ground by volunteer firefighters.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Fall colors won’t be the only thing blazing in the town of Oakland Saturday. The town hall will be burned to the ground by volunteer firefighters.
“There aren’t many of these old town halls left,” said Randy Martin, Oakland employee and fire chief. The building at the intersection of County Highways B and K has been a community hub since built in 1922. More than a spot for town meetings, it was the site of dances, funeral receptions, exercise classes, firefighter training, church services and rummage sales.
“We had our wedding shower here,” Martin said. “Our baby showers were here.” His daughter held her baby shower there, too.
The path to the building’s demolition started more than two years ago when newly elected town chairman Bob Warner proposed putting together a five-year budget plan.
“We weren’t looking for work,” he said. But they found it. When Warner and Stan Dzikonski crawled under the town hall to assess the structure for budget purposes, the conditions were alarming.
“It was obvious something had to be done,” Warner said.
Inspections revealed moisture had ravaged the untreated floor joists and sub-flooring; beams were deteriorating; and airborne mold was detected in higher concentrations within the building.
“In layman’s terms, it would cost more to fix the building that it is worth,” Robert P. Finstad of Finstad Appraisers wrote to the board on Jan. 4, 2012.
The town sought grants to repair the building, but did not qualify for them because of the income level of residents. A siding project in the late 1980s or early 1990s changed the hall too much for it to be considered a historic structure, closing another possible avenue of funding.
“We’ve exhausted all efforts,” said Greg Dolsen, a town employee and assistant fire chief.
During a special town meeting in February, residents approved the purchase of land for a new town hall site. But they voted against a resolution to construct new buildings. Current estimates for the construction of a combined town hall, fire hall and town and fire department garage are at $1.3 million, according to Warner and the town minutes.
“It’s never going to be any cheaper,” said town board supervisor Jack Byrd, factoring in current low interest rates and ever-increasing costs for construction. There is also the possibility of just building a town/fire hall portion and adding on the garage area at a later date, supervisors said, but that would increase the total cost.
The town has no debt.
“We haven’t had a loan for two years,” Byrd said, not since the town paid off the bulldozer it purchased in 2005. The town bought 19 acres of nearby land on the corner of County Highway K and Rockdale Road this year to place a new town hall on. The town paid cash for the $36,000 land and $10,000 construction trailer to serve as a temporary town hall.
Volunteer firefighters from the towns of Oakland, Parkland, Summit and Superior will burn down the old hall Saturday. It’s a good chance to get in training, Martin said. He encouraged anyone traveling in the area to be aware of the exercise and possibility of traffic delays.
Not everything will be destroyed.
Monday, town workers pulled the town hall’s distinctive sign off the building with a chain saw, machinery and muscle. They also rescued the 1922 sign from atop the building. Floorboards were pulled up to recycle as picture frames at the new town hall.
Town residents were invited to review the proposed blueprints and projected costs for a new town hall Tuesday night. About 30 people showed up, Warner said. They liked the design of the building, he said, but many were concerned about the price tag. Once the plans are refined and approved by the state, the town board will hold a special meeting for residents to vote on the proposal.
“I’m not sure what the board will do if it’s turned down again,” Warner said.
The town chairman estimated the earliest date for such a vote would be mid-November, and all town residents would be notified with post cards.
“The longer we wait, the higher the cost,” Warner said. And if construction is to begin next spring, they have to get started as soon as possible.
Once the town hall is destroyed, the trailer will be placed where it once stood. The upcoming town vote will determine if it will be a temporary meeting spot.
For more information on the Oakland Town Hall, including a time line and inspection reports, go to www.townofoakland.net.