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Ferrisburgh group ponders fate of Union Meeting Hall

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh selectmen met on Monday evening with other officials and members of the town’s historical society to begin talking about the future of the town-owned Union Meeting Hall, which sits on Route 7 at its intersection with Middlebrook Road.
The building is showing its age, and selectmen are wrestling with the cost of maintaining it, which is not covered by the rent paid by a church that uses it for weekly worship and other meetings. 
Selectmen called the town’s planning, zoning and conservation boards to join them to brainstorm at the town office building at Monday’s meeting.
“It was a very informal discussion,” said selectboard chairwoman Loretta Lawrence.
Central questions are how the building should be used, whether town or private ownership would be best, and how much it would cost to bring the building up to code, Lawrence said.
No decisions were made on Monday, except to meet again in July after one attendee, Ann Cousins, attends a statewide conference on “redundant churches” in Vermont towns.
Lawrence said officials hope Cousins can bring back some ideas from that gathering, because many towns are facing similar situations.
“It’s a real concern for a lot of towns now. They all have a redundant church in their back yards,” she said.
The Union Meeting Hall, said Town Clerk Chet Hawkins, was originally built in the 1800s as a joint venture by several small congregations. As the town and the churches grew, the churches built their own houses of worship, and ownership of the building reverted to Ferrisburgh.
This year alone, the town has had to fund work on the its tower and entry porch.
“We’re doing little bits and pieces,” Lawrence said. “But there’s a lot to do to keep it up.”
Before the next meeting in July, officials will also study the full cost of repairs. They also hope to hear from residents about their opinions, and when officials have more facts in hand they will approach residents more formally, possibly through a survey.
“We’ve started the conversation, and eventually we’d like to bring it to the townspeople,” Lawrence said.
Reporter Andy Kirkaldy is at [email protected].

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