For nearly 30 years, the Windham Town Offices and adjoining annex have served as a joint municipal facility and community center. Over that time, Windham, as a town, has seen rapid growth demanding more and more of the building and offices housed within. This has led to a lack of privacy, storage space and cramped work conditions, says Town Manager Anthony Plante.

“You walk into any of these offices and you walk right smack into the middle of what’s going on which is confusing to the public,” Plante said.

In an effort to alleviate some of this cramping, the annex, now used as a community center, is going to be renovated for a relocation of some of the town offices.

“We’re still working on it,” Plante said. “The only thing for certain is that the tax collectors and the town clerks will move down there.”

On the third floor of the Town Offices, the town clerks and the tax collectors have outgrown their space and, due to the narrow hallway, residents who come to pay their taxes, get licenses and register their vehicles, must often wait in lines that wind down the stairs. By moving downstairs to the annex portion of the building, the collections and clerks offices will have adequate space to conduct business with the public, Plante said.

“The biggest thing for me is that I will have a separate office to talk about people’s taxes in private,” said Assistant Tax Collector Judith Heggeman. “We have no privacy.”

A total of $295,000 has been appropriated for the renovation project, which is currently in the drafting stage. Edward Woodbury, chair of the Windham Zoning Board of Appeals, is currently helping out with the design details. Due to the old age of the building, parts of the roof and floor will have to be replaced and certain accessibility issues will have to be addressed, says Plante.

While the annex renovation will offer more space for town offices, it will force the Senior Meals program and the HeadStart program for underprivileged children to relocate. These programs have made their home in the annex and shared the space with groups such as the Windham Land Trust and the local Boy Scout troops who meet there regularly.

“We’re looking for a new location,” says Virginia Billings, Windham Site Coordinator for Southern Maine Agency on Aging. “We’ve gotten fair warning and (the town manager) is reaching out into the community to help find us a space.”

Billings has run the Senior Meals-on-Wheels program and the Senior Meal Congregate out of the annex for 11 years. She, and her many volunteers, deliver an average of 35 meals a week for elderly “shut-ins” in the Windham and the surrounding area, many of whom would be unable to cook a nutritious meal for themselves otherwise. And every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, seniors have come together for a congregate meal at the annex provided by Billings and the volunteers.

“It’s unfortunate because we’ve had a nice home in that building, but that’s progress,” Billings said. “I think (the seniors) will adapt and I think it may be for the better.”

Judy Reidt-Parker, director of Child and Family Services at People’s Regional Opportunity Program which runs HeadStart, is likewise optimistic about the move, but hopes that the Senior Meals program and HeadStart will be able to find another space to share together.

“It’s been nice having elders and the children in the same space,” Reidt-Parker said. “We’re actively looking at different locations. The challenge is finding a space that meets the state regulation for a child care license.”

The HeadStart program assists children from low-income families with their educational needs. HeadStart acts as a “traditional nursery” that cares for the children during the day and prepares them for kindergarten with a focus on child literacy.

“I have every confidence we’ll find a space,” Reidt-Parker said. “One way or another, we’ll be providing services. Exactly where, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Renovations on the annex are expected to begin in the late fall or early winter of this year, says Town Manager Plante. Once the designs are finalized, they will have to be approved by the Town Council. No decisions have yet been made as to what will happen with the empty space left by the exiting town clerk and tax collections offices. And though the renovated annex when completed will take stress off both the main building and its employees, it will not solve all of the office’s space needs, Plante added.

“It’s kind of a stop-gap measure,” Plante said. “It won’t meet all of the needs. But it will make things better. There’s no doubt about it.”

Dorothy Jones, Adminstrative Assistant, sits at her desk amid clutter and cramped working conditions at the Windham tax collections office. Jones will be one town employee who benefits from a proposed town hall renovation.

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