Middlebury project re-vote nears

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury selectboard will soon send out a townwide informational letter reminding people about the May 13 revote on the $6.5 million proposal to build a new municipal building and recreation center.
It was on March 4 that residents voted 915 to 798 in favor of a plan to erect a new, 9,400-square-foot town office building at 77 Main St. and a new, 11,500-square-foot recreation center on land off Creek Road. The deal calls for the town to convey the current municipal building and gym at 94 Main St. to Middlebury College, along with another town-owned parcel at 6 Cross St.
The college would turn a cleared 94 Main St. parcel into a public park and relocate its Osborne House from 77 Main St. to the 6 Cross St. property to make way for the new town office building.
In return, the college would assume $4.5 million of the $6.5 million construction budget for the two new community buildings. The college has also agreed to pay the town up to $1 million to clear 94 Main St. and to move the Osborne House.
It’s a proposal that elicited a lot of debate, both pro and con, prior to the March 4 vote. Resident Howard “Skip” Brush spearheaded a successful petition drive to force reconsideration of the Town Meeting Day vote. So voters on May 13 will field the exact same question on which they cast ballots on March 4:
“Shall general obligation bonds of the town of Middlebury in an amount not to exceed $6.5 million, subject to reduction from available alternate sources of funding, be issued for the purpose of financing construction of a town office building on the so-called Osborne House site, and public recreation and athletic facilities on Creek Road, the total estimated cost of such improvements being $6.5 million, with the town’s portion of the construction cost estimated at $2 million?”
Those who don’t want the project should still vote “no” on May 13, and those who favor the project should still vote “yes.”
But there is an added wrinkle in the upcoming re-vote, which is driven by statutes governing reconsideration initiatives.
Project opponents will not only have to score a majority win, they will have to do so with a voting block that amounts to more than two-thirds of the total number of people who voted in favor of the project back on March 4. Two-thirds of the 915 tallies cast in favor of the project back on Town Meeting Day amounts to 610 votes. So opponents of the project will have to muster at least 611 votes (and of course, more than the “yes” voters) to win the day.
The May 13 Australian ballot vote will be preceded by a Monday, May 12, informational meeting at which residents will be able to get a refresher on the project and voice their questions and opinions about the plan. That meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the municipal gym.
The May 12 meeting will include a summary overview of the project by Bread Loaf Corp. officials. Some residents at Tuesday’s selectboard meeting suggested that petitioners be given equal time to state their case. Board members said they would consider that request, but stressed the meeting should focus on the $6.5 million project. Brush filed the reconsideration petition in hopes that the town and college might consider his alternative proposal for new town offices and recreation facilities. That plan calls for new town offices and a senior center to be built at 105-111 Court St. and a new recreation facility to be added on to the Memorial Sports Center off Buttolph Drive. Brush’s plan has not been reviewed by town officials and will not be part of the reconsideration vote.
The Addison Independent will publish a preview story about the upcoming re-vote in an upcoming edition.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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