UNION BRIDGE — After more than 50 years in one room, the town has outgrown Town Hall.
Two large desks, several file cabinets and a long conference table fill the 12-by-15-foot former living room of a house at 1 W. Broadway. Add office equipment, and there's barely enough space for residents who have been attending council sessions in increasing numbers lately.
Steps at the entrance, a narrow doorway and the lack of a bathroom make it inaccessible for disabled residents.
And it's noisy.
"If people are talking in the office and you are on the phone, you can't hear anything," said Town Clerk Kathleen D. Kreimer.
The $120-a-month rent may be the office's only advantage, and even that is under debate.
"We don't think we want to rent anymore," said Kreimer."Depending on what kind of financing we can get, we would rather buyor use a building we already own."
Nobody wants to move too far away, though.
"People like to come in here and pay their bills in person," said Elaine Holmes, part-time secretary for the town. "The staff would also like to be in walking distance of the bank and post office."
A search committee met last month to review options and organize a tour of roomier and more accessible locations. Committee members joined town and county officials Tuesday for a tour of available sites here. They followed up with some comparison shopping at other town offices in Hampstead, Manchester and Taneytown.
Eight people piled into a van and drove two blocks to Locust Street, where the PumpHouse was the first stop on the tour. Constructed in 1904, the brickbuilding would require extensive repairs, including the installationof bathrooms, heating and air-conditioning systems.
On the plus side, the town already owns the centrally located building and property. Its nearly 1-acre lot offers ample space.
"Structurally, the building looks sound," said Steven C. Horn, county planner. "It's feasible, and we could easily add on at the back."
Using his measuring tape, Dick Owings, county plans examiner and town resident, said renovators would have to enlarge the doors and level the floors.
"There's enough room for a reception area and for a separate office for the mayor," said Sara Black, committee member.
Next stop was the Community Center, at the opposite end of Locust Street, where the mayor and a few others interrupted the tour briefly to mop up a large puddle near the side door. Strong winds pushed rain in under the door to the patio.
"We had a suggestion to enclose the patio," said Kreimer. "That wouldn't give us much more space than we have now and we would have to walk across the main room to the bathroom."
Holmes said that adding town offices to the site might limit the number of rentals at the center, especially for weddings.
"If you use this place as offices, it will be functionally dead as a social hall," said Owings. "If you add on a totally new office, it will cost more than renovating the Pump House."
Officials do not have cost estimates for either location.
Members said they considered two other possibilitieson Main Street: Yingling's Market and Myers Super Thrift.
The $150,000 purchase price for Yingling's was too high, said Kreimer, and Myers' flood plain location eliminated it.
The committee hopes to report its findings at the Jan. 27 council session at Town Hall.