The other day, I stopped in at one of Windham’s town hall departments to pick up a tape so I could transcribe it and the narrow aisle between the ceiling-high file boxes and the secretary’s desk did not leave enough room for two people to pass.

While I was there, the department head was trying to hold a discussion with a citizen/patron, two people were on phones, and two other patrons were waiting to have questions answered or look something up. This is not an uncommon circumstance, but the everyday routine. And it’s not limited to one department. It’s fairly common to have 15 or 20 people in the hall or space in front of the counters where people pay taxes and register vehicles or buy licenses.

On April 5, I watched the council and municipal department heads discuss the horrendous lack of space at town hall and in sometimes angst-filled comments, tell how they would like to be able to serve residents better, in a much-needed confidential atmosphere.

Having served on at least two or three committees appointed by the town council to look into facility inventory, need and conditions, I can speak with some authority as to actual conditions. In my opinion, for the municipal offices, they are dismal.

What’s the matter with my fellow townspeople? We’ve built schools, fire stations, a library, other buildings, and acquired land for recreation in the nearly 35 years since the population of Windham was 6,600. All this building is because of demand on town services.

Well, the demand on town services begins at town hall, when people get a marriage license, building permit, license their car, pay their taxes. Yet, studies of and plans for needs here have been shelved while we tended to more pressing issues.

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For 130 years, Windham’s town office was a brick building constructed in 1833. Windham grew slowly at the start. It took 130 years for the population to reach 6,600. But in only 10 more years, by 1980, there were nearly 12,000 of us. So, after 150 years in one building, Windham’s town offices moved into the vacated high school building we know as Town Hall. That was in 1980.

In 1980, 44 single family building permits and three commercial permits were issued. Twenty years later, there were almost 100 single-family and 63 commercial permits. That trend continues. Yet we’re still trying to serve 16,000 people from a facility which was adequate for 6,600.

It’s time to stop living in the past (much as I love history), and face the fact that the former high school, built in 1910 is no longer adequate to serve 16,000 residents.

What are we waiting for?

Along with hundreds (maybe thousands) of others here, I graduated from high school on the stage at the town hall when it was a school; I played basketball and danced at the Junior Prom in the gym, but I’d like to see the gym and stage end of town hall rebuilt into a two-story office complex, where there would be enough space to move around. In my imagination, it would be consumer friendly, handicap accessible and safe. I’d include a fireproof storage area for town records which cannot be replaced, and safe, healthy offices for our town employees from whom we expect – and get – so much.

We have two gyms and an auditorium in the new high school – let’s make community use of that facility for pick-up basketball, exercise groups and the Community Theatre.

Expanding offices in this way might be less expensive than acquiring land and building a brand new office complex.

Kay Soldier

Life long Windham resident, former member of Permanent Town Building Committee, Senior Needs Committee, Library Expansion Committee, and Housing Needs Study Committee – and staff writer for the the lakes Region Suburban Weekly


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