There’s an old country saying: “Never buy a pig in a poke.”

For those not familiar with the antiquated term, a “poke” is a bag. The upshot is, know what you’re paying for.

It seems the town of Franklin bought a pig in a poke.

We learned this week that construction of a new town hall in Franklin has been delayed by issues with a piece of property the Town Council purchased as a building site.

“Nothing’s simple, of course,” Franklin Town Supervisor Jeffrey Taggart told our reporter. “This is turning out to be more expensive than we ever thought it would be.”

The town purchased several acres of property adjacent to its highway garage on county Route 21 last year.

The property is significantly sloped, Taggart said. Officials are considering leveling the land, but state Department of Environmental Conservation regulations stipulate a one-acre maximum of land disturbed before water runoff must be addressed.

That’s something they should have known before laying out the money.

And, there’s more.

The property includes the foundation of a former house and came equipped with a well and a septic tank, Taggart said, but the septic tank is only 100 feet from the foundation and may be moved to suit the new building’s needs. There’s a water well on the site, but a test of the 80-foot well indicated it was dry.

Again, these are things that should have been learned before the purchase, not after.

A new septic system can be installed and a new well dug or the existing well dug deeper, but at increased costs. Not so easy to overcome is the issue of access to the new building.

The property only has one access point from county Route 21, and the driveway is “quite steep,” Taggart said. Plans to build a second driveway were halted after officials determined the proposed location lacked the necessary 500-foot sight distance to allow motorists the proper time to judge passing traffic.

Didn’t anyone look up and down the road before they bought the property?

Taggart — a straight shooter, in our experience — defended the purchase while admitting that haste may have gotten the better of him and his board.

“It was a good purchase because we did need more land behind the town shed,” he said, admitting that town officials didn’t thoroughly examine the property until after its purchase.

“That was our mistake,” he said. “We wanted to get a hold of the land — that was more important at the time.”

Was it? Really?

There’s no question Franklin needs a new building to house offices for its clerk, assessor, code enforcement officer and court. We see the appeal of having a site adjacent to the highway garage.

But the lack of care in spending taxpayers’ money is troubling. Few among us would be so careless in spending our own money on a large purchase.

The 2,500-square-foot building is estimated at $750,000, according to Taggart, who said town officials are hoping to keep costs below half a million dollars.

Getting the project done for two-thirds of the estimate would have been quite an accomplishment even without the newfound complications. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to that goal now.

We urge officials in all our local municipalities to take a lesson from Franklin’s mistakes and spend our money wisely.

Recommended for you