Upper Marlboro officials are moving forward with a plan to expand the Town Hall, despite mixed reactions from residents.
“If we want to be a viable town, we need to have a bigger space to get together,” Ellen Storey of Upper Marlboro said at the town’s board of commissioners meeting earlier this month. “At the Christmas party, it’s wall-to-wall. ... We’re squeezed in here.”
The existing Town Hall building, which was converted from a pool house in the 1980s, is 1,677 square feet with a relatively small room that seats about 25 at town meetings, while the addition would expand the space to 2,728 square feet.
Steve Sonnett, chairman of the town’s board of commissioners, said about 10 residents typically attend the town board of commissioners meetings.
Included in the new building would be a nearly 100-person meeting room; a small kitchen for catering; three separate entrances, including a private entrance for the police department; a larger space for the police department; offices for the town clerk, accountant and receptionist; a conference room; and room for historical archives, bathrooms, a broadcast room to record town meetings and events, and an emergency generator to power the building through power outages.
“I think this would be a very nice Town Hall, a functional Town Hall,” Sonnett said.
Sonnett said the roughly $600,000 project is made possible through the town’s surplus of $600,000 in the unrestricted reserve fund.
Some residents opposed the plans and said just because there is available funding for the build-out now doesn’t mean that money should be spent.
“The question we should be asking is not if we can afford it, it’s if we need it,” said George Leonnig, a town resident and former commissioner for Upper Marlboro. “I’m opposed to this.”
Sonnet said the town is continuing to gather feedback from residents, but said he plans to move forward with the project.
He said as the town gets into the engineering phases, officials also will explore adding solar panels to the roof to provide some alternative power and install an environmentally friendly parking lot by making the pavement pervious. The town already has completed architectural designs for the new space and now is looking to finalize plans to begin the various engineering studies and approvals needed from the Prince George’s County Planning Board.
Sonnett said he anticipates at least a year to go by given the planning, cost estimates and evaluations before the building is expanded, but said he is excited to move forward with the project.
Although there is disagreement on whether now is the time to make the change, most residents agreed that more space is needed.
“There’s the feeling of trying to increase the community feel. It seems viable to have a location where outside groups can come and feel like they’re a part of the community,” said Kate Germano of Upper Marlboro.