Bristol sets bond vote for Holley Hall repairs

BRISTOL — Bristol selectmen on Monday set the date for a bond vote that could fund substantial repairs for Holley Hall.
The town will decide on Dec. 8 whether to authorize the use of up to $750,000 to make the building more handicap accessible, fix structural and wiring problems, and reorganize the basement town offices.
Town officials whittled the price tag for the project down to $820,000 from a Colchester architect’s original $1.1 million estimate. Selectboard Chairwoman Carol Wells said she’s confident that the town can raise the extra $70,000 through grants to reach the target of $820,000.
Already, town officials have moved out of Holley Hall and set up temporary quarters at 6 South Street. The move came this summer, after Bristol voters at the annual town meeting approved spending up to $20,000 from the town’s general fund for that purpose.
The relocation was necessary primarily because of high radon levels in the Holley Hall offices, which were in some places as much as 10 times higher than recognized safe levels for the gas.
Other major projects came to light last year, when an electrical fire in the boiler room drew attention to problems with the building’s wiring.
Repairs to the building would include:
• Performing extensive renovations to make the building more handicap accessible, including installation of a new ramp entrance, two handicap-accessible bathrooms, and either an elevator or a “limited use, limited application” lift.
• Insulating and weatherizing the main auditorium and bell tower.
• Reorganizing the basement offices to allow more historic windows to be “reopened” after being blocked in previous renovations.
• Installing a more efficient heating system and safer ventilation.
• Building a multi-purpose room in the basement offices that could be used for meetings and performances.
The Dec. 8 bond vote will be preceded by 8 p.m. public hearings on Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 in Howden Hall. Polls for the Dec. 8 vote will be open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. upstairs in Holley Hall.
Also during their Monday meeting, selectmen set the dates for what will likely be the final two public hearings on a new Bristol Town Plan. Those hearings will take place on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14, both at 7 p.m., also in Howden Hall.
The selectboard has not made any substantial changes to the plan since receiving it from the Bristol Planning Commission, but Wells said she thinks two more hearings will give town residents more chances to weigh in on the document, ask questions, and have their voices heard.

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