AMESBURY — With the future of Town Hall Annex uncertain, Community Action Inc. began packing boxes this week in preparation for its move from its longtime home.
Next week, Community Action will begin moving from the annex building on School Street to its new home around the corner at 44 Friend St., where it will officially open its doors July 5.
The Municipal Council on June 14 approved declaring the two-story annex as surplus property, meaning the town-owned building could either be put out to bid or up for auction.
The town is looking to move the annex because the upcoming expansion of the Fire Department will come within 3 feet of the building, adding $100,000 in costs to the $2.4 million project.
Community Action's new offices on Friend Street will provide more operational space and parking, and the building is handicapped-accessible — amenities the annex lacked.
But the new digs come at a cost: approximately $15,000 to $16,000 a year, including utilities, according to associate director Brendan Lynch.
The town had given Community Action free use of the annex space for the past 25 years.
"We have a lease with a private landlord," Lynch said. "We believe we have money in the budget to cover at least the first year of the lease."
Community Action helps low- and moderate-income residents obtain housing, food and clothing, and operates a small food pantry and clothing bank. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition and health program, also known as WIC, and heating-assistance programs are also staffed out of the center.
To accommodate the move, the Community Action office will be closed until July 5. However, residents in need of emergency help may call the new office location at 978-388-2570 beginning June 29.
Community Action also has locations in Haverhill and Newburyport.
The agency's relocation wasn't a surprise.
Construction project managers for the fire station expansion sought to demolish the annex to avoid the added construction costs of having the addition come in close proximity to the building. But the town's Historical Commission voted in March to put a hold on demolishing the annex after deeming it "preferably preserved."
In May, the commission told Mayor Thatcher Kezer it wanted to first see if a buyer might be interested in moving the building to another location before it would consider lifting the "preferably preserved" status and allowing the building to be demolished.
Kezer said town officials next week will decide whether to accept bids for the building or put it up for auction.
The annex is also home to several town offices, including veteran services, inspectional services and a regional Health Department, which will also need to be relocated. Veteran services will move to the new transportation center that is currently under construction. The remaining two offices have yet to find homes.
Tapping into Assistance
Community Action's new Amesbury office at 44 Friend St. will reopen July 5.
The weekly food pantry hours will be Monday and Tuesday from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Phone calls and appointments for emergency housing and utility assistance are accepted Wednesdays and Fridays.
The WIC hours will be every Wednesday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and every other Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Heating assistance program staff will be available in the fall.
To reach Community Action, starting June 29, call 978-388-2570. To reach WIC, call 978-388-2575.