Middlebury seeks help designing new town office

MIDDLEBURY — The Middle­bury selectboard on Aug. 13 is scheduled to pick a design-build company to help draw up plans for a new municipal building and gym, a project that could be put to the voters as soon as this November.
Board members on Tuesday agreed to establish the five-person committee to evaluate four design-build teams that are in the running for the contract. The teams are DEW Construction Corp. and Freeman French Freeman, Inc.; Engleberth Construction and Wiemann Lamphere Architects; ReArch Co. and Vermont Integrated Architecture; and Bread Loaf Corp.
The selected company will help the town draw up plans for a new, 8,000-9,000-square-foot municipal building that would be built at 77 Main St., where Middlebury College’s Osborne House is currently located. The company will also map out a new, 14,500-square-foot municipal gym that would be erected near the town tennis courts, swimming pool and the Memorial Sports Center off Mary Hogan Drive.
The new buildings would replace the current municipal building and gym located at the intersection of College and South Main streets. As part of a proposed deal with Middlebury College, those deteriorating buildings would be removed and the land preserved as a new park. The town would move the Osborne House to a town-owned parcel at the intersection of Cross and Water streets. The college would in turn contribute $4.5 million toward construction of the two new buildings and another $1 million for demolition of the current town offices/gym and relocation of the Osborne House. The selectboard has established a budget of $6.5 million for the two new buildings, meaning taxpayers would have to assume $2 million of the debt.
It is a proposed deal that has drawn both applause and criticism. Supporters like the idea of receiving substantial aid, a new park, gym and new town offices that will remain in the downtown. Opponents have said the town should rebuild on the current site. They have also criticized the plan as having been hastily conceived and claim that a new office building at 77 Main St. could exacerbate downtown parking problems and hem in the adjacent Ilsley Library.
Selectboard members hope at least some of the critics’ concerns will be assuaged after seeing more detailed plans. To that end, they are forming a committee to recommend a design-build to the board. The committee will include David Hallam, who served as the town’s project manager for the Cross Street Bridge; Addison County Transit Resources Director Jim Moulton; Middlebury Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay; Selectman Victor Nuovo, who chairs the Town Offices Steering Committee; and another person yet to be named at press time.
“I’m very impressed with the quality of the four design-build teams,” said Selectman Nick Artim, also a member of the steering committee. “They are going to help us visualize what these (proposals) are.”
The steering committee met on Tuesday to, among other things, affirm its goals and tasks. The panel agreed its purpose is to plan for construction of new town offices and a recreation facility; to make preparations for a town-wide bond vote on those projects; to help coordinate permitting for the projects and related demolition/relocation of existing buildings; and to work with the project architect to ensure that “design of these buildings meets the town’s needs for the indefinite future.”
The steering committee on Tuesday also discussed:
•  Potential permitting requirements for the town offices/gym projects. Ted Dunakin, Middlebury’s director of planning and zoning, confirmed the projects will have to undergo both local and state review and permitting. Locally, the Design Advisory Committee and Development Review Board will have to sign off on the plans. The projects will also be subject to Act 250, Dunakin confirmed.
•  Concerns from ID-4 board Chairwoman (and steering committee member) Ruth Hardy about the rapidity with which planning is moving and the fact that Mary Hogan Elementary School directors have not yet had a chance to discuss the gym project and how it might affect the adjacent school. The ID-4 board does not meet again until Aug. 12.
•  The prospect of receiving private donations from individuals, businesses and civic groups to add amenities (beyond the baseline price) to the proposed new gym. Officials noted that placing public restrooms in the gym is an amenity that at least one local resident has offered to help finance.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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