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Middlebury project revote set for Tuesday

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury residents will go to the polls next Tuesday, May 13, to vote again on a $6.5 million plan to build new town offices and a recreation center.
Residents on March 4 voted 915 to 798 in favor of the plan, which calls for a new, 9,400-square-foot municipal building to be built at 77 Main St. and a new, 11,500-square-foot recreation center to be erected on land off Creek Road.
The proposal also 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 transform 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.
Since the Town Meeting Day vote, College President Ron Liebowitz also said the institution would contribute to the expenses of making the new town office building even more energy efficient. Also since March 4, a representative at Bread Loaf Corp., the Middlebury firm designing the municipal building project for the town, has said that Efficiency Vermont has formalized a program that will provide additional financial benefits to municipal building projects that produce as much energy as they consume — ones that are so-called “net-zero.”
Chris Huston, vice president for architecture at Bread Loaf, said these financial incentives are enabling Bread Loaf to work on making the municipal building a “net zero building” at no additional cost to taxpayers.
The proposal has won its share of fans and opponents, who have spoken out at a variety of public meetings since last summer. Proponents have said the current plan keeps the town offices downtown and produces a project at an affordable price for taxpayers ($2 million). Opponents have voiced concerns about the town giving up the 94 Main St. site, and whether both of the new sites will feature adequate parking. Opponents have also raised concerns that the recreation center plan might shortchange seniors and teens. Plans call for Addison Central Teens to be accommodated at the town’s warming hut building, while seniors would share a multi-purpose room in the new recreation center.
Resident Howard “Skip” Brush successfully petitioned for a revote on the $6.5 million project. Voters on May 13 will field the exact same article they approved on March 4. That article reads:
“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 like the project should vote “yes;” those who are opposed to the plan should vote “no.”
To stop the project, opponents will not only have to score a majority win, they will, by state law, 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 Town Meeting Day. Two-thirds of the 915 tallies cast in favor of the project back on March 4 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.
Town officials have reported a steady stream of early voting on the town offices/recreation center referendum. Middlebury residents may cast a ballot early at the town clerk’s office. Special election costs associated with the revote have been placed at around $1,500.
An informational meeting about the project will be held on Monday, May 12, at 7 p.m. at the municipal gym. Australian ballot voting will take place the next day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., also at the municipal gym.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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