01/04/05 — Princeton gets peek at new town hall

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Princeton gets peek at new town hall

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on January 4, 2005 1:58 PM

PRINCETON -- A drawing of a proposed $761,000 Town Hall was unveiled to replace an outdated building that was called an eyesore and an embarrassment to Princeton.

The Princeton town board approved an application in December to seek a federal grant to pay for half of the cost of the 3,946-square-foot building.

The board then held a required public hearing Monday night during its monthly meeting so that it could apply by next Monday for the grant from the Department of Agriculture.

The new town hall would be built across Pine Street from the current structure and would include expanded areas for the Police Department, a large meeting room and even space for state probation and parole officers.

Town Clerk Marla Ashworth said that if Princeton got a grant for half of the cost, then the town could borrow the other half at 4.75 percent over 30 years at a cost of $20,000 per year, or about 5 cents worth of the property tax rate.

Police Chief Eddie Lewis called the proposed town hall an asset. He said it would be big enough to serve the town for many years in the future.

Lewis said he now has no interview room where he can talk to suspects and informants without anyone else knowing what was being said. A secure evidence room also was planned.

Two residents said they strongly endorsed the idea.

Ed Wiggs said the current building had "outlived its usefulness. It's an eyesore and an embarrassment for the town." He said it was beyond repair. Then he said the enlarged Police Department would be a plus, and he urged the town board to move quickly on the project.

Red Smith called the present Town Hall "a terrible eyesore" and said it has been "in terrible shape for many years."

"First impressions are lasting impressions," Wiggs added.

Commissioner Walter Martin Jr. said the town "never has a second opportunity to make a first impression."

The town's contracted engineer, C.T. Clayton Sr. of New Bern, opened the public hearing by saying several locations for the new town hall were reduced to two in the downtown, the current site or the lot across the street. He said most people wanted the building in the downtown.

Clayton hired architect John F. Thomas Jr. of the Raleigh firm of MBAJ Architecture to design the building.

The proposed town hall would be constructed with a steel frame and brick veneer.