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Braintree to close 90 Pond St. building, consolidate at Town Hall

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 19, 2013 03:18 PM

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Braintree officials are looking to bring town departments under one roof after the closing of the town building at 90 Pond St.

The move, which Mayor Joseph Sullivan said has been discussing for several years, is more about consolidating town departments, though it will also lessen the town’s financial burden, as the town is paying $160,000 a year to keep the building open.

“[We’re] continuing to review our operations and how we can get tighter, and I think having the majority of personnel and departments back at Town Hall offers a more convenient and better level of service for the consumer,” Sullivan said in a phone interview.

The building currently houses the town’s Water and Sewer Departments, as well as the Building Department, Engineering Department, and Health Department. They're expected to move out of the Pond Street building this summer or early autumn.

Each of those departments used to be housed in the lower floor of Town Hall, until flooding issues in the '90s forced the departments out of the building. As a temporary solution, the groups were moved to the town-owned building on Pond Street.

The building had been vacant for several years. Initially built as the Noah Torrey Elementary School, the building would was a school until the '80s. Then, John Hancock Financial Services took over, renovating the structure and using it for office space.

Once the lease had expired a decade later, the building reverted back to the town, and came in handy when flooding problems arose.

Though the building has served its purpose for the past 20 years, Sullivan said there is always confusion with residents who come into Town Hall looking for those departments.

“I can’t tell you how many times people come into this building and are looking for the Building Department and we have to say, ‘Go to 90 Pond,’ ” Sullivan said.

Bringing the 30 employees currently housed in the building to Town Hall would not only be better for residents, but would also improve coordination and teamwork between town departments.

Sullivan hopes to move the offices back to the lower floor of Town Hall this summer and early fall.

“We have room here. We may have to move some offices,” Sullivan said. The consolidation would not mean any reduction in staff.

Though where town employees may go has mostly been sorted, the fate of the old building is largely up in the air.

“[We have] chatted loosely with Housing Authority, if they would want to look at it for a possible location…but haven’t had a real focused discussion,” Sullivan said. “A better option to look at is selling the property, but also maintaining the level of oversight to see … that the building is transformed into something that will benefit the town of Braintree.”

Having community input about the parcel is a main priority in the move, said Town Council President Chuck Kokoros, who has 90 Pond St. in his ward.

“One thing … both [the mayor and I] agreed on is we would have a lot of public discussion on what would be best for the building and we’re looking more to a residential type scenario than anything,” Kokoros said.

Elderly housing in particular would be a good use for the building, Kokoros said. The space is also equipped to handle some kind of office-type use, though everything depends on the zoning.

Kokoros said that he hopes to find some other purpose for the building before the departments are moved out, in order to keep the building from languishing and losing market value.

“We’ve been talking about this for a couple of years. It’s important to get on top of this and make headway,” Kokoros said. “Once the employees have been moved back to Town Hall, we need something in place. We don’t want the building inventory hanging out there. There are costs associated with an aging building as well.”

The building at 74 Pond St. – which is also town owned – would stay as is.

That building largely holds the Marge Crispin Center, the Youth Center, the Dianne DeVanna Center, and the Retirement Board.

The only town department is the Retirement Board, which is largely autonomous and wouldn’t need to be under the same roof as other town departments, Kokoros said.

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