With a gold-plated shovel, Union Bridge began building its future on its past yesterday.
Town officials broke ground for a 2,500-square-foot town office building to adjoin the century-old Pump House, which will be renovated.
"This building will take Union Bridge into the 21st century and be a centerpiece as the town moves forward," said state Del. Donald B. Elliott, a District 4B Republican. "Yet, it will remind you of a different era and be a hallmark of years past."
The digging proved a little difficult. "I hope they haven't hit rock already," said a man in the crowd of about 50 people at the ceremony.
The comment brought a laugh from those shivering in the chilly March wind. Many of those listening to glowing remarks from town and county officials have been involved in helping raise the $171,000 needed to turn the Pump House on Locust Street into a modern center accessible to handicapped people.
"The enthusiasm has been great," said Town Council member Selby M. Black, chairman of the Town Office Planning Committee. "People call and ask what they can do."
Mr. Black also led a committee that searched for a suitable location. Committee members reviewed the proposed sites and toured the town's other offices.
"This idea was really conceived on paper napkins," Mr. Black said, laughing. "Restaurants took away the cloth tablecloths so we couldn't write on them."
Organizers will continue with fund-raising events, including a pancake breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Community Center. County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy said he looked forward to a "pudding and hominy" breakfast. Mr. Black recited the menu and offered regrets that the commissioner's favorite entree would not be included.
Mayors past and present and the county commissioners also spoke at the ceremony.
"Your community will grow because of your country heritage and work ethic," said Commissioner Donald I. Dell.
Said Commissioner Julia W. Gouge, "Your building will represent your government. It will make you proud of your community."
Former Mayor Richard L. Stultz, who served from 1971-1975, said he was "encouraged for the town's future" and praised the council's foresight.
The project, which has been planned for about a year, will ease overcrowding at town meetings and give the municipal staff room to grow.
For the past 70 years, Union Bridge officials have run business from a one-room office in a Broadway home.
The room holds about 25 people, said Mayor Perry Jones Jr. "Most of our meetings now are standing-room only," he said. "We have gone from a $100,000 to a $400,000 [annual] budget in the last 12 years. We need more staff and more room to conduct business."
Work will begin April 1, said Jonathan Herman, owner of Herman Construction Inc., the contractor for the project. The mayor and council should be able to move in by fall, he said.