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Building of duplicate Grange expected to begin Oct. 8

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September 20, 2007

By ANDY KIRKALDY

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh selectmen on Tuesday voted to sign a $2.8 million contract with Middlebury’s Breadloaf Corp. for a historically accurate rebuilt Grange Hall with a one-story addition that will serve as a town office building and a community meeting center.

The vote, taken after weeks of debate in the town over whether to proceed with the project or to consider other options, and after a Tuesday closed-door discussion among selectmen, was 3-2.

Chairwoman Loretta Lawrence, Larry Simino and Sally Torrey voted to authorized Lawrence to sign the deal with Breadloaf on Ferrisburgh’s behalf, and Jim Warden and John DeVos voted no.

Work is now expected to begin on Oct. 8 on a Route 7 building that will include town offices at its ground level, plus an entry lobby with a small kitchen area and a meeting room to be shared by the town and the Grange. Under that level will run a full basement, and over it will be a larger meeting room with a stage that will be overlooked by a balcony.

Not including the basement the building will be 5,925 square feet. Including the basement, it will be 8,835 square feet, according to Breadloaf representatives. (See related story for building details.)

The cost increased by $51,000 from the contract on the table this summer. That deal expired on Aug. 31. Lawrence said selectmen could not sign the earlier deal by that deadline because a long-delayed late-July insurance settlement did not give town officials time enough to get a zoning permit that would have allowed Breadloaf to start construction earlier this month.

“Due to the lateness of the settlement, there wasn’t enough time to properly warn the permit,” Lawrence said. “Timing wasn’t on our side.”

Selectmen also referred to “issues” with the contract when they did not sign it by the Aug. 31 deadline. Other than the permit, Lawrence said those issues boiled down to two.

The first question was whether Breadloaf’s subcontractors were willing to remain on board while the town battled this spring and summer with the company that insured the original Grange building, which was destroyed by an arson fire in February 2005.

The second issue was whether and how their months-old estimates would change. In the end, small price hikes across the board boosted the project cost from roughly $2.75 to $2.8 million.

“They (the issues) all tied into the cost,” Lawrence said. “Nothing’s changed as far as the contract. It ended up being the cost of the subcontractors.”

Lawrence said the town still has about $63,000 in project funding over and above the $2.8 million figure. Town Grange project coordinator Silas Towler said there is a $51,000 contingency built into the contract, and that he expects further cost savings during the construction process. For example, he said, a lumber company recently pledged a price reduction for Grange flooring.

Lawrence said despite some recent opposition to the Grange project, most selectmen were confident in moving forward given what she called a modest price hike. They believe, she said, the building will meet the town’s long-term needs. 

“The majority of the selectboard feels strongly that this is the project that has been put forth, and we should proceed with it,” she said.

Some residents have said selectmen should also call for a townwide vote. But Lawrence said because town officials are not seeking any more money than was approved in the 2004 bond vote for the original Grange project, selectmen believe the project already has voter backing.

“We feel that we don’t legally need to go back to the voters because there’s no money being asked for. The bond vote in 2004, we believe, still stands. We received voter approval back then,” she said.

Funding for the project will come from about $2.1 million in insurance settlements, the roughly $110,000 remainder of the town bond, and a large list of grants and donations, according to Grange fund-raising chairwoman Jean Richardson.

Despite the lively and occasionally even heated debate on the Grange project since the town won the second half of its major insurance settlement in July, Lawrence believes the town can unite and move forward.

“I was contacted this past week by two vocal opponents of this project, and they both said that even though they did not support this particular project they would stand behind and support that decision whatever it may be,” Lawrence said. “And I just personally find this to be very gratifying and humbling, and this shows the true spirit of our townspeople, and that’s what makes Ferrisburgh such a wonderful and special town.”

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