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Middlebury shows condition of town buildings

MIDDLEBURY — More than 110 people showed up at a Jan. 15 open house at Middlebury’s municipal building and gym at 94 Main St., an event aimed at showcasing deficiencies within those two structures while explaining a proposal to erect new town offices and a new recreation center.
“I thought it was terrific,” Nancy Malcolm, chairwoman of the Town Offices and Recreation Facilities Steering Committee, said of the two-hour event, which included several informational stations set up within the gym as well as walk-throughs of the two buildings conducted by local officials.
“We saw more numbers than we expected — we had to get more pizza,” Malcolm added. The town provided free beverages and pizza slices (purchased through local vendors) and cookies (baked by Town Treasurer Jackie Sullivan), and offered child care as extra inducements for people to show up at the open house. It’s one of several informational events that town officials are staging in hopes of gaining support for a Town Meeting Day referendum on construction of a new municipal building at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road.
Per terms of a tentative agreement with Middlebury College, the institution would pay the town $4.5 million and receive the current municipal building/gym property and a town-owned parcel at 6 Cross St. The college would pay the town an additional $1 million, which would be used to raze the town offices/gym, and to relocate the college’s Osborne House from 77 Main St. to the 6 Cross St. parcel. The town would maintain the cleared 94 Main St. site as a public park for at least 99 years. The town would erect a new, 9,400-square-foot town office building at 77 Main St. and build a new, 11,500-square-foot recreation center off Creek Road — projects budgeted at a combined $6.5 million. Town officials would apply the $4.5 million in college funds to that cost and ask taxpayers to bankroll the remaining $2 million.
The plan has been intensely debated by the town selectboard, steering committee and citizens. Some opponents of the plan have argued, among other things, that it is too costly; inconveniently sited for some of the town’s constituencies; and requires the community to give up an important real estate asset in 94 Main St.
Malcolm said Wednesday’s event drew some project opponents and supporters, but above all many people who had never turned out at past meetings about the proposal.
“For the vast majority of people, it was the first time we had seen them,” Malcolm said.
Attendees were able to step up to individual information stations dealing with such subjects as project costs, parking, design, and “frequently asked questions.” Town officials led small groups on tours through both buildings to point out deficiencies, including outdated and inefficient plumbing, electrical and heating systems. Participants also got to see and judge for themselves the state of the buildings.
“It was an open format that was very approachable,” said Chris Huston, project architect for Bread Loaf Corp., hired to provide design-build services for the projects.
The steering  committee will schedule at least one additional public forum about the town office and recreation center projects, likely to be held in mid-February.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
AT THE MIDDLEBURY town office and gym open house last Wednesday a model of the proposed replacement town office at 77 Main St. was on view.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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