On August 24, 2022

Pittsfield Town Hall to become emergency shelter

By Brett Yates

On Aug. 18, the Pittsfield Select Board approved a $24,610 expenditure for a backup generator for the Town Hall.

The Briggs & Stratton 26kw unit will supply enough power during a blackout not just to keep the Town Hall fully operational but also to keep the lights on at the Town Office next door. Following the installation of an underground service line by local company CV Oil (which will charge an additional $2,050), it will draw fuel from a 1,000-gallon liquid propane tank already in the ground.

A $385 snow guard will protect the device from winter weather, and the town will pay the same amount annually for professional maintenance.

Due to arrive this week, the generator will bring Pittsfield a step closer to realizing its vision of turning its Town Hall into a sanctuary for residents in the event of a natural disaster. The idea emerged out of discussions held by the Pittsfield Rescue Plan Committee, a body tasked with considering potential uses for the federal funds dispensed to the town via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Before that, Pittsfield had already committed to a major renovation of the Town Hall, allocating $93,000 into a reserve fund for repairs to the building over the last three years at successive Town Meetings. The addition of emergency equipment and supplies will go along with “putting the walls back up, putting the kitchen back together, [and] repairing the ceiling,” Board Chair Ann Kuendig said.

For now, the town still has an occupancy permit only for the building’s upper floor, but it is looking toward the future. On the same night that it approved the new generator, the Select Board bought for the Town Hall a $4,482 on-demand water heater.

“We’re also getting bids on installing heat pumps, so we can make this a viable cooling center in the summer,” Kuendig added.

ARPA funds will play a key role in helping the town afford these expenses, but due to unresolved accounting questions around their disbursal, they remain untouched so far. Accordingly, the deposits and retainers for the aforementioned products and services have come out of the Town Hall reserve fund. Officials expect that new guidance from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns will allow Pittsfield, finally, to dip into its federal stimulus before long.

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