Starting this week, the town clerk, the police, and all other town departments currently housed in a space provided by Shaw’s Supermarket, will return to the building devastated by Tropical Storm Irene a year ago this month.
“Everyone is looking forward to moving back to our old space,” says town clerk Susie Haughwout. “I’m happy to be going home.”
For the past year, the town offices have been located in a space adjacent to Shaw’s, which has provided the office space rent-free and has not charged the town for utilities.
“Shaw’s has been more than gracious,” says Haughwout. “They’ve been good to the town and good to the taxpayers.”
Haughwout, along with the town records, will be the first to return to Main Street. According to town manager Scott Murphy, all departments hope to be back in Town Hall by Monday, August 6.
Since Irene, Town Hall has undergone extensive refurbishing. Visitors to the building will be greeted with a fresh paint job, new carpets, and new windows.
“It’s a heck of a way to get a new paint job,” says Haughwout.
“Employees will be happy to be back in the village again,” says Murphy. “Emotionally, it will be good for everyone to see us in town. I think it provides closure.”
Murphy also points out that town employees’ presence in the village will be good for local businesses.
“Any activity that returns to the village center is good activity,” says Haughwout.
The move carries some drawbacks, notably the possibility of another flood destroying an important government space once again.
Haughwout, who personally carried many of the town records out of the building’s vault during Irene, worries that vital documents are being put back in danger in the event of another disaster. The records will be located in the same place that they were prior to the flood.
Murphy and Haughwout also acknowledge the convenience of the Shaw’s location (“It’s one-stop shopping,” according to Haughwout), which also benefits from ample parking, a chronically scarce resource on Main Street.
Ideally, says Haughwout, the town offices would be moved out of the flood zone to a less vulnerable location. Such a move, however, is currently out of Wilmington’s financial reach and would require years of planning and fundraising to become a reality.
“Would it be the perfect thing to do? Yes. Would it be the practical thing to do? No. It’s a big project, and it’s definitely not off the radar screen, but it’s not an active project right now.”
In the meantime, town residents can look forward to the move finishing up over the next few days. Tax payments that are due on August 17 will be accepted at both Town Hall and the Shaw’s location until the due date.