Fall starts planned for downtown Middlebury projects

MIDDLEBURY— The Middlebury selectboard on Tuesday formally signed a resolution to float $7 million in bonding for a new municipal building, new recreation center and a community contribution toward the impending replacement of the Merchants Row and Main Street railroad overpasses.
The action follows the community’s affirmation on May 13 of a Town Meeting Day vote supporting the construction of new town offices at 77 Main St. and a new recreation center off Creek Road. Those tasks are projected to cost $6.5 million, of which $4.5 million will be underwritten by Middlebury College in exchange for the current municipal building/ gym site at 94 Main St., which will be cleared and turned into a park.
The remaining $500,000 of the $7 million bond will be the town’s contribution to the new, $18 million tunnel project that will replace the Main Street and Merchants Row rail overpasses.
Selectboard Chairman Dean George on Tuesday said work is expected to begin mid- October on the two new buildings. He added the college is forming a committee to plan for the new park. And Norm Cushman, the college’s associate vice president for operations, has reached out to companies who might be interested in moving the Osborne House. That house is currently located at 77 Main St. and is to be moved to a town-owned parcel at 2 Cross St. to make way for the new municipal office building.
George said the Osborne House move is expected to detour traffic away from the Cross Street Bridge for around two hours on the day it is moved.
George added discussions are under way about burying utility lines that are in the vicinity of the new municipal building site, an effort that could receive some financial backing from the college. The institution has also voiced a willingness to help the town make its new office building as energy efficient as possible.
A Middlebury Town Offices & Recreation Facilities Building Committee has begun meeting to help contractors refine plans for the two new structures. All of the panel’s meetings will be public and recorded for viewing later by Middlebury Community Television.
Meanwhile, Addison Central Supervisory Union officials confirmed this week that the Vermont Department of Education has determined that the locker rooms addition to the new recreation center, approved by voters in the UD-3 school district, will not run afoul of Act 60, Vermont’s education funding law. UD-3 residents on Town Meeting Day voted 1,698 to 1,343 in favor of a $400,000 bond to build the self-contained, roughly 2,000-square-foot “team rooms” addition onto the new center.
Some opponents of the project had argued that the team rooms plan ran counter to the Act 60 rule that school funds cannot be used for municipal projects. Peter Burrows, ACSU superintendent, said this week that the addition has been cleared by Bill Talbott, chief financial officer for the Department of Education.
Talbott will be providing a written opinion on the matter at a later date, Burrows said on Wednesday.
Selectboard members plan to sign a lease agreement by July with UD-3 for use of the Creek Road property, followed by a second agreement spelling out shared UD-3 and town uses of the recreation center.
In other downtown construction- related news, Middlebury officials are now projecting a mid-October timeframe for removing the Lazarus building at 20 Main St. Middlebury College recently purchased the building, which it deeded over to the town last week. The town will demolish the building to create better access via Printer’s Alley to the Marble Works complex.
In order to prepare the building for demolition, the town will need to hire qualified firms to identify and remove hazardous materials — such as lead and asbestos. That work is estimated to cost around $22,000, money that will be allocated from the town’s cap- ital improvements fund.
Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay said the costs of the actual demolition and removal of the Lazarus building will be covered by the (mostly) federally funded plan to replace the Main Street and Merchants Row railroad overpasses with a tunnel. As reported last week in the Addison Independent, major work on the overpasses project will have to wait until next spring. But contractors will need to use the
Lazarus site for staging materials and as a launching site for drainage borings.
In other action on Tuesday, the Middlebury selectboard:
• Received a report from Jamie Gaucher, Middlebury’s director of business development and innovation, on some potential new economic activity in town. His lead item, however, presented some good news and bad news. Gaucher reported the good news is that Vermont Soap is looking to relocate from its fire-damaged location at 606 Exchange St. to a building owned by Tony Neri at 183 Industrial Ave. The bad news, according to Gaucher, is that Ferrisburgh-based Vermont Livestock had been looking to expand into the Neri building.
“Five different investment companies have been involved in financing the Vermont Livestock (project),” Gaucher said in describing the complexity of the deal.
Vermont Livestock has outgrown its current headquarters in Ferrisburgh. The company originally submitted plans to build a new slaughterhouse operation in Middlebury’s industrial park, but ultimately declared an interest to move into the Neri building.
• Agreed to support an electric vehicle charging facility at the municipal parking lot off Mill Street. The state will install two electric vehicle-charging stations at the lot and reimburse the town for up to $27,590 (75 percent) of the total project costs. The agreement with the state calls for a local match of $1,697, with Green Mountain Power also kicking in assistance.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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