Bristol board plans Howden Hall upgrade

BRISTOL — The oldest town building in Bristol, Howden Hall, is about to get what officials say are some much-needed upgrades.
With roughly $75,000 in the town’s Howden Hall Capital Reserve Fund, the Howden Hall Committee — with the selectboard’s approval — is moving ahead with electrical upgrades, moisture reduction measures, weatherization improvements and possibly some wheel-chair accessibility measures.
At a meeting last week, the Bristol selectboard hired project manager Ed Hanson at a rate of $50 an hour to oversee the process.
Howden Hall, built in 1842 as a church, was erected more than 40 years before fellow West Street edifice Holley Hall, said Bristol Historical Society member Gerald Heffernan. In 1892, the building came under the ownership of an Adventist church, and in the 20th century it shifted into the town’s hands. In 2006, the building’s heating system was updated, the ceilings were reinsulated, the exterior was painted, the bell tower was renovated and the windows were restored.
Today, Howden Hall acts as the Bristol Historical Society’s headquarters, a town meeting space and a resting place for many of Bristol’s cherished historical artifacts. But to make the building’s basement useable again and prevent mold from encroaching on the town’s historic treasures, the building needs some updates, said Town Administrator Bill Bryant.
“We need to get a handle on the moisture issue … (and) the electrical system is not up to modern standards at all,” he said in an interview this week. “We’re at a point where we have about $75,000 available, and we have an energy audit that estimates $75,000 in improvements.”
Most of the building’s moisture problems stem from the basement. The town and Hanson are considering measures like pouring a new concrete floor, re-insulating the space and making other renovations. Hanson will also oversee other upgrades; and although no timeline for action has been set, Bryant said the town is working as quickly as possible to address the Howden Hall issues and finish the basement.
In other news from the June 4 meeting, the Bristol selectboard:
•  Accepted Pike Industries bid of $82,476.38 to pave a 1.5-inch topcoat of asphalt on the stretch of Burpee Road between Plank and Monkton roads. Last summer, the town reconstructed the road, improved drainage, replaced culverts and finished with a 2.5-inch layer of asphalt. In the next couple of weeks, before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, town officials want to wrap up the project with funds from the current year’s budget.
•  Discussed a grant application filed for improvements to Holley Hall acoustics. Selectwoman Carol Wells, Recreation Department Director Darla Senecal and Anne Gleason organized the application for a roughly $30,000 grant from the Vermont Arts Council.
•  Met with Kevin Irish about working in the town right of way on Notch Road and a structure on his property that was denied a permit because it didn’t have a curb cut.
•  Approved the Fourth of July Committee’s proposal to bury speaker wire on the town green.
•  Granted permission to Boy Scout Troop 543 to reset stones in Briggs Hill Cemetery under the guidance of Scoutmaster Jim Rivers.
•  Permitted town fireworks for Bristol’s Fourth of July celebrations. Fireworks will start at dusk on July 3.
•  Discussed alterations to the proposed draft of the Bristol Town Plan, but did not finish discussing those changes or vote on whether to enact those changes. The board will continue to discuss the draft at a June 18 meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Holley Hall.
Reporter Andrew Stein is at [email protected]

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