Middlebury seeks to weatherize town gym

MIDDLEBURY — It’s been no secret that the Middlebury municipal gym has been leaking thousands of dollars in heat each year. Selectmen on Tuesday ordered an energy audit to determine exactly where the heat is escaping and how the building could be tightened up to keep energy in and the cold out.
Bread Loaf Corp. will conduct the energy audit and recommend ways the town could make the very actively used municipal gym more weather-tight. The town has applied for a $50,000 federal grant — which would be supplemented by a $25,000 local match — to at least get a start on implementing some of the suggestions Bread Loaf delivers in its report.
The municipal gym is part of the Middlebury town offices complex at 94 Main Street. The complex was built in 1911 and 1939, lacks proper insulation, and uses approximately 18,000 gallons of No. 2 heating fuel each year at a cost of around $50,000 (depending on prevailing energy prices), according to the town’s application for federal grant money.
“Our goal is to save taxpayer money by lowering the cost of heating the building while moving toward a more energy efficient municipal gym and office building,” reads a narrative for the town’s application for a $50,000 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.
Town officials believe they will be looking at a five-pronged approach to “buttoning up” the gym: Improving and re-insulating the ceiling; making the historic windows more energy efficient; replacing the large metal-halide lights with more efficient lighting; improving the building’s ventilation system; and implementing (in concert with Middlebury College and area businesses) a biomass-fired heating system to reduce reliance on oil.
“We know that $75,000 will probably not do any one of those projects completely,” said Middlebury Town Manager Bill Finger. “But our first step is to do the (energy) audit and then our decision becomes what to do first. If we get that $75,000, we can decide where we can spend it more effectively first.”
Middlebury Town Planner Fred Dunnington agreed.
“We may, as part of this, develop a more long-range plan as additional funds become available,” Dunnington said.
Efforts to secure money to weatherize the gym would appear to signal a renewed town commitment to a structure that has, in recent years, been considered for replacement or relocation as part of a new town offices project. While officials acknowledge that the issue of new town offices could be revisited after the Cross Street Bridge project is built, the municipal gym is likely to remain a fixture well into the future.
“On our latest iteration of the town facilities committee, the sentiment was that no matter what happens on this (municipal complex) property, this building will probably stay,” he said of the gym, which hosts numerous community and recreation department activities.

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