Middlebury to host Tuesday forum on town office project
MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday, July 9, will convene an “open forum” on a $7.5 million plan to build new town offices and a new recreation center.
The forum will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will be held in the Russ Sholes Senior Center in the lower level of the current municipal building at the intersection of College and South Main streets. The regular selectboard meeting will follow, at 7 p.m., at the same location.
Members of the Town Offices & Recreation Facilities Steering Committee will also be on hand to review the funding and planning process for a project slated to be brought to a public vote sometime this fall. Town officials will listen to input and answer questions. Project details will be developed this summer and early fall, so there will be no specific plans to review at the July 9 meeting, officials said.
The project in question has a lot of working parts and is already generating considerable feedback.
In short, it calls for the current town offices and connected gym to be razed, with the site given to Middlebury College to be maintained as a public park. New town offices would be built at the site of the college’s Osborne House at 77 Main St., next to the Ilsley Library. The Osborne House would be moved to a town-owned parcel at the intersection of Cross and Water Streets, which formerly hosted the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist meeting house.
A new municipal gym would be erected near the Memorial Sports Center off Mary Hogan Drive.
Middlebury College has pledged $5.5 million toward associated demolition and construction costs. The town would likely pitch a bond issue for the remaining $2 million in project costs, a measure that would add an estimated 2 cents to the municipal tax rate.
A subcommittee of the Middlebury selectboard approached college brass with a request for assistance earlier this year. That’s because a majority of the board does not believe local taxpayers could support debt service on another major capital project. Townspeople recently endorsed a $4.625-million makeover of the community’s two fire stations, which bumped the municipal tax rate up by around 4.5 cents this fiscal year.
The proposed project has won support from some who like the idea of receiving financial help for a new office building that would remain in the downtown — a priority for many Middlebury residents based on past surveys. But the idea is being panned by other people who like the current town office/gym location and object to the notion of the college acquiring more town-owned real estate in the downtown.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]
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