Middlebury gym eyed as heating costs rise

MIDDLEBURY — Town officials exploring the prospect of a new municipal building at the intersection of College and South Main streets will seek a consultant to help them flesh out plans.
And while a new municipal building proposal is likely a few years off, the selectboard wants to quickly make some energy improvements to the adjacent, porous town gym in anticipation of heating fuel prices that could top $4 per gallon next winter.
Middlebury officials agree the current town offices located in the 100-year-old former Middlebury High School building are poorly configured, have an antiquated electrical system and are not energy efficient. The building and adjacent municipal gym consume 20,000 gallons of heating fuel each year because they are so porous.
A town office study committee is considering construction of a new, more efficient building that could possibly accommodate some nonprofit or private tenants to drive down payback costs for taxpayers.
Town Manager Bill Finger told selectmen at their Monday evening meeting that the study group is at a point where it could use a consultant to refine the planning process, which will include a questionnaire for prospective tenants.
“I think we’re making pretty good progress,” Finger said.
Middlebury selectboard Chairman John Tenny stressed that the town will need to do something sooner rather than later to button up the municipal gym or risk seeing a huge increase in the heating fuel budget.
“I don’t think I would personally be able to support a budget increased by $4 (per-gallon) oil, or to continue wasting oil for the coldest months of the year unless we take some steps there to improve energy efficiency,” Tenny said of the gym. “If we are going to meet our requirements in terms of energy efficiency that we have set for the town and the board’s governance of the town, we need to be taking some steps there. We need to be conserving fuel where we can. If that means some lessening of use in the gym in January and February, perhaps that’s a reasonable course. I would hope energy improvements would be a better course. It depends on what we are able to do.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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