Salisbury eyes town hall repairs

SALISBURY — Salisbury residents next March will be asked to approve a plan to preserve their town hall to make it more weather-tight, sturdy and usable into the future.
The Salisbury Town Hall Committee is working in concert with the Addison County Regional Planning Commission and consultants to prepare a plan for addressing deficiencies in the Maple Street building, originally erected in 1869. The structure was renovated in 1908, and again in 1948 after a major fire. It ceased being used for annual town meetings during the 1970s after an inspection revealed its floor could no longer be counted on to support the weight of large gatherings.
While annual meetings have shifted to the local elementary school, the town hall building continues to host the local library. The Salisbury Historical Society several years ago spearheaded an effort to size up needed repairs for the structure. The town hall committee has taken over that mission, and recently commissioned a study of the work it would take to insulate the building, seal up its foundation and put in new windows, among other things.
Jim Eagan, chairman of the town hall committee, said the group will soon hire an architect to place some cost estimates on the suggested repairs. Eagan suggested that voters could be presented with a few options next March, ranging from basic repairs to a more elaborate fix-up.
“We’ve tried to go along slowly, but meaningfully,” Eagan said of the committee’s ongoing study of the building. “We want as much community input as we can get.”
To that end, the committee will meet on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. at the town hall to get feedback from residents on how to take care of the building.
Some residents have already weighed in on the topic. The Salisbury Planning Commission recently finished tabulating the results from a town plan-related survey of residents on issues ranging from septic system discharge into Lake Dunmore to the future of the town’s landfill. Included among the 40 questions was, “Are you in favor of supporting the long-term maintenance of the town hall?” Of the 86 respondents, 55 (67 percent) replied “yes,” while 18 replied “not sure” and nine said “no.”
It’s now up to the committee and the selectboard to put together renovation plans that townspeople could support in what remains a tough economy.
Officials believe insulation will be an easy sell to voters. An energy efficiency audit of the building indicated a potential savings of 80 percent on heating bills if the structure were insulated, according to regional planning commission Energy Planner Kevin Lehman. There is currently no insulation in the walls of the building, officials noted.
Energy auditor Jared Moats of Structural Energy Conservation Inc. examined the town hall last winter, noting the town uses 1,340 gallons of heating oil annually to keep it warm. Properly insulating the building, he stated in his report, could save the town $3,225 annually. He has proposed a combined total of $36,000 in energy-related repairs, including installation of storm windows, urethane foam and cellulose insulation, and numerous air seals.
Jeremiah Parker Restoration and Construction Management Corp. did an historic assessment of the property earlier this year. Parker outlined a menu of more than $140,000 in repairs the town could choose to make, including repairing mortar joints in the stone foundation, bringing floor and framing within the building up to code for public assembly, designing and installing a new fire escape, installing a lift to allow disabled visitors to access the second floor, and fixing/replacing several doors and windows.
Salisbury Selectwoman Jackie Devoid said she looks forward to having a dialogue with townspeople on how to care for an important municipal asset.
“It will be an ongoing thing to preserve that building and make sure we use it property,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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