On June 21, 2023

Additional funding allocated for Pittsfield Town Hall

 

By Brett Yates

The Pittsfield Town Hall Building Committee shared some potentially unpleasant news with municipal officials last week: in order to complete the town’s long-standing renovation project on the historic structure that houses both the Pittsfield Select Board and the Pittsfield Historical Society, the committee would need more money.

Over the course of three town meetings, starting in 2020, Pittsfield residents voted to deposit $93,000 into a Town Hall reserve fund to update the facility. It had closed in 2019 after an inspector cited safety concerns. Work began, and it reopened two years ago.

The Select Board also set aside a portion of Pittsfield’s federal dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 with the goal of turning the Town Hall into an “emergency shelter,” equipped to protect townspeople in the event of a natural disaster. According to a compliance report filed with the U.S. Treasury this spring, Pittsfield had spent $57,179 on the project, excluding the $27,430 price tag on a backup generator that will serve both the Town Hall and the adjacent Town Office.

In the meantime, however, the Town Hall has yet to earn an occupancy permit for its lower floor. It doesn’t yet comply with Vermont’s egress requirements or fire code. Plus, the building still needs new clapboard, new flooring, and new paint in spots, along with a couple new doors and a chimney repair, according to the Town Hall building committee. And unexpected expenses, small and large, have amassed.

“Today, we thought the electrical panel total was going to be $500. Because of the old wiring and whatnot, it went up $435 to $935,” said Richard Gaston, who chairs the committee. “When we did the foundation work on the front, we realized the whole front underneath the vestibule was rotted. We had to replace that.”

Gaston pointed out that private donations and volunteer labor had already mitigated the cost to the town, which, in his view, would need to increase the Town Hall’s share of the federal stimulus.

“Members of this committee have spent countless hours ourselves demoing, putting back together, adding on, doing all the things we could,” he said. “We have saved the town thousands and thousands of dollars.”

The Select Board expressed its appreciation but also noted that, of its original ARPA payment of $165,306, only $44,423 remained uncommitted.

“There are suggestions for other things in the community, like a new playground for the kids in the area,” Selectwoman Joyce Stevens observed.

“We’re tired. We’d like to get this done,” Gaston emphasized. “We are so close to having this be a gem for this town.”

The board trimmed Gaston’s $30,000 request by $10,000 before signing on. According to Selectman A.J. Ruben, next year’s budget, already approved, will release additional funds for the Town Hall, covering the gap between the board’s new allocation and Gaston’s estimate of the remaining cost.

“It seems that it would be responsible for us to finish this project in a timely manner and not delay it,” Ruben said, “because, if we delay, things will likely be more expensive later.”

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