Addison residents ponder Town Hall’s future

ADDISON — A lightly attended Sept. 16 public informational meeting did little to settle the future of the now vacant Addison Town Hall on Route 22A, according to the chairman of Addison’s selectboard-appointed Town Hall Committee.
Committee head John Spencer said only about a dozen residents showed up that Monday evening at the Addison Central School to learn more about the ownership and septic issues that are complicating the building’s future.
“There were too few people there to get any clear message out of it,” Spencer said.
The town hall committee has recommended a community septic system that could serve not only that building, but also the Addison Community Baptist Church and the town’s nearby fire station and clerk’s office. Addison’s 140-year-old town hall has never had running water or septic, and Spencer said the other buildings all have questionable individual systems.
The church now owns Addison Town Hall, per a deed that stated its ownership reverted to the church when the town no longer used it. Church leaders have agreed to deed the building back to Addison in exchange for septic service.
The system is proposed for land west of the central school. Construction, engineering, permitting and purchase of an easement for the site are estimated at $675,000, but Spencer is optimistic the state would pick up 35 percent of the tab, or $236,000, by awarding Addison a Pollution Abatement Grant.
The Town Hall Committee, formed in 2007, also has plans drawn up for a $1 million renovation of Addison Town Hall as a replacement for what Spencer and others call an increasingly inadequate town clerk’s office, which has little storage, office and meeting space and a nearly full vault. Experts have determined the town hall’s structure is sound, Spencer said.
Spencer said that several residents at last week’s meeting wondered about money.
“Most of them were saying we have to … find a way to pay for the renovation before we move forward,” he said.
The problem, Spencer said, is that other towns have discovered that government and foundation grants will not be awarded to towns if they do not own the building for which those grants are sought.
And Addison cannot own the building without first investing in the community sewer system, he said, putting the years-long discussion back to square one — although he had hoped for a Sept. 16 consensus to borrow $50,000 to monitor the proposed septic site in the spring and confirm that it would meet all the buildings’ needs.
“You have to have title to (the building),” Spencer said. “We’re back to Catch-22.”
Spencer said he or another committee member will report on Oct. 1 to the selectboard, which called for the Sept. 16 meeting. One possibility is a discussion on Town Meeting Day, when more residents will be on hand, but Spencer said selectboard members will ultimately make the call.
“I don’t know what the next step will be,” Spencer said. “I have to talk to the committee and think about this, and the selectboard.”
Selectboard chairman Jeff Kauffman said he was able to attend only part of the Sept. 16 meeting, and he said officials will have to talk over the town’s next moves on the complicated issue.
“The next steps will be determined when the selectboard meets again, so I am not sure of those steps at this time,” Kauffman said in an email.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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