HOPE — Efforts are being stepped up that may eventually lead to construction of a new Hope Town Hall.

Last week, a three-member selection committee began conducting one-hour interviews with representatives of three architectural and engineering consulting firms: DLZ Indiana, Strand Associates of Columbus, and RQAW Associates of Indianapolis.

Each firm is being asked to present preliminary architectural reports on what they are proposing for a new town hall, Hope financial consultant Trena Carter said.

These reports are required in order to qualify for funding from a Community Facilities program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she said.

If the selection committee of Tim Shoaf, Clyde Compton and Jim Tedder successfully negotiates a contract price with one of the firms, the town will request more detailed renderings and cost estimates, Carter said.

But many variables remain that likely will keep the project in a feasibility study stage for the foreseeable future, she said.

Besides contract price negotiations, Carter identified those variables as:

Obtaining council approval on various steps

The length of time needed to determine specific proposals

USDA approval of the grant application

The amount of money available during the federal grant cycle

For several years, town officials have considered the current 2,436-square-foot building at 404 Jackson St. too small to serve as a permanent home for local government.

First erected in 1954 as a fire station, the building’s roof now leaks, Shoaf said. Temperature control is both expensive and difficult to maintain during periods of extreme heat or cold, he said.

In addition, employees who work in the building complain that metal wall panels interfere with cellphone and wireless Internet signals.

A preference already has been stated during previous committee meetings for a new brick building.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.