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Lebanon City Hall renovation could move forward at hearing

Union Leader Correspondent

December 17. 2013 11:37PM

LEBANON — The first phase of a proposed renovation of City Hall could move forward at a City Council 2014 budget hearing tonight at City Hall at 7 p.m.

The first phase, "level one" would update the planning and zoning office. The project is estimated to cost $570,000, but is budgeted for $790,000. The $120,000 cushion factors in any unexpected costs that tend to crop up in renovations of older buildings, City Manager Greg Lewis said Tuesday.

The project is part of Lewis' proposed $52 million budget, which represents a 3.5 percent budget increase

"So it's an $82 increase on a $250,000 home," Lewis said.

The majority — about $5 million — of the $6 million increase in the city budget stems from a federally mandated waste water project, Lewis said.

A second phase or "level two" project Lewis is proposing in 2015 would update the public and customer service floor of City Hall.

Combined both phases represent a $2.7 million renovation of City Hall.

Both phases would bring these spaces up to 21st century standards, Lewis said. Which is particularly important for the planning and zoning office that is about to undertake the monitoring and regulating of several multi-million dollar projects that have recently been approved including multi-use developments in West Lebanon and along Route 120.

The project would "basically provide a space to steward these multiple millions of dollars of development in Lebanon," Lewis said.

City infrastructure took a hit this summer when heavy rain storms caused more than $4 million worth of damage to city streets and the final federal aid for recovery is unknown, though is expected to cover the majority of repair costs, Lewis said.

"Timing could be better, the storm hit the city hard, so some people think we should get the final storm numbers before we consider something like this," Lewis said. "The community is under stressful conditions property tax wise. People are having difficulty in the cost of housing and property tax."

However, times have changed, the climate has changed, Lewis said. Improving and maintaining the City Hall building is a needed investment in continuing to run the city efficiently and effectively, he said.

"I think we'll see these storms happen again," he said. "We've got to get ourselves prepared in our operations to deal with this."

Lewis said it's important to remember phase one and two are separate projects.

City Council can propose and vote on amendments to Lewis' 2014 budget or let it stand.

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