Opinion: Vote for new gym and town hall at UD-3 meeting and on March 4

As long-term residents of the town of Middlebury, we are writing in support of the selectboard’s proposal to build new town offices at the Osborne site and a new recreation building at Creek Road. We believe Middlebury should welcome the generous offer from Middlebury College, which lowers the cost of the proposal to $2 million to town taxpayers. The alternative of renovating the current town offices and municipal gym on site is far more costly, as in millions more, and does not address the substantial design limitations of the current town offices. The current town offices are housed in the shell of a 1911 school. As such the building has wide hallways resulting in energy inefficient wasted space, along with a below street level basement that is currently unoccupied. (Ask the police department if they would like to move back in.) Those of us who believe strongly in energy conservation should be appalled that on one single day this past January, the current town offices and municipal gym burned nearly 200 gallons of fuel oil.
Unfortunately, no possible renovation of the current town office building could remedy these design shortcomings. Instead, for substantially less money, we will have a new town office building nearby that is energy efficient and designed properly to fit its function. This will save all of us heating and repair costs well into the future. In addition, we are not especially concerned about parking availability because people using the recreation building and offices will be housed at a different site. By way of comparison, if you are house hunting, would you prefer an energy efficient, brand new house appropriately sized to your family — or would you prefer to spend more to renovate and occupy an old retrofitted stable?
We also fully support the construction of a new recreation building in a less congested but still centrally located area that will contain a new basketball court, multipurpose room, dance studio, team rooms, and facilities. We believe that this array of spaces will serve the whole community well.
We hope the voters of Middlebury will support the term sheet allowing us to build the recreation building on land owned by UD-3. Again this is to the mutual benefit for all our citizens as well as the children in UD-3, nearly half of which live in Middlebury. The need for appropriate changing rooms, facilities, and shelter are basic necessities that are long overdue. The old Legion building to be razed as site work for the recreation building is uninhabitable, an eyesore, and is not safe even as a storage facility. No one will mourn its demise. Scheduling of the recreation facility will be done cooperatively between the town and UD-3; we believe that this joint scheduling agreement will result in better scheduling for student athletes, their families, and for a host of community activities.
We fully support the proposal and urge everyone to vote yes for the term sheet on Feb. 25 at the MUHS learning center and yes again on Article 6 when you cast your vote at the old Municipal Gym on March 4. We have been discussing how to renovate the town offices for several years now and this opportunity is clearly the best and least expensive. The details of the proposal as well as its costs are well known. For approximately $2 million, it seems like a fair bargain indeed to trade in some land in downtown Middlebury in return for a nice park together with two new, attractive, energy efficient buildings that better serve our needs now and well into the future. Let’s move forward together and support Article 6 to build new town offices and appropriate recreation building.
Peter and Lucy Schumer, Middlebury

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