Study: Addison land could host septic system for town buildings

ADDISON — The effort to restore Addison’s long-vacant town hall got a boost on Tuesday night, when the Addison selectboard heard from a Phelps Engineering representative that land to the west of the town clerk’s office would support a septic system that could serve all town-owned property in the Addison Four Corners area.
The report confirmed that the land, owned by the Gosliga Farm, which is willing to offer the town an easement for its use, has the capacity to serve a restored town hall, the church that now owns the building, the Addison Volunteer Fire Department, the current town clerk’s office, and, according to Addison Town Hall Committee Chairman John Spencer, other properties if town officials choose to build a large enough system.
The land was tested this past spring, using funds approved by Addison residents at their 2014 town meeting. The fire department, town clerk’s office and the Addison Community Baptist Church, which owns the former town hall, all have questionable septic systems, Spencer said. The former town hall, built in 1840, lacks running water and septic service.
Spencer’s committee has been working since 2007 on the related issues of regaining ownership of the former town hall from the church; solving the septic problem, which must be dealt with if the town hall lot is to be subdivided from the Route 22A church parcel; finding funds to fix up the town hall to turn it into a community center and allow it to replace the current tiny clerk’s office, which lacks vault and meeting space; and finding funds to pay for the joint septic system.
Now, with the positive test results, Spencer said he can “really see the light at the end of the tunnel” after the years of work.
“It was really positive at the selectboard meeting last night,” Spencer said. “It is hard for a small town like Addison to come up with a lot of money, but it can be done.”
Estimates for the sewer system and restoration work are uncertain and a little out of date. Spencer said the availability of grant funds for community septic systems, historic preservation and community centers could result in a lower end cost to Addison.
“What we have to do now is generate ways to look at all kinds of funding so that we can come up with an amount of money the town has to raise to do something,” Spencer said. “The state will fund some of the sewer, and then there are some other funds that we might be able to get towards that and also towards the town hall.”
In 2013, the committee estimated septic system construction, engineering, permitting and purchase of an easement for the site at $675,000 (including the money spent on spring testing), but was optimistic the state would award Addison a grant for 35 percent of the tab, or $236,000.
This week, Spencer said that construction number could move depending on the final design and the capacity the selectboard ultimately chooses.
He noted a state study identified several private properties in the village “that have no replacement area if and when their septic fails because their lots are so small. The state is always trying to find ways to secure that because if it fails, what are you going to do? Maybe this capacity could be used for some of that.”
The Town Hall Committee also a couple years back had plans drawn up for a $1 million renovation of the town hall to replace the town clerk’s office. Experts have determined town hall’s structure is sound, Spencer said.
Those plans called for a new foundation with a basement that could house the listers’ office and a meeting room, and putting the clerk’s office on the main floor with a meeting room that could hold about 20. The top floor, which has a stage, could provide a meeting room for as many as 190.
At some point, possibly by next November, Spencer said the committee might propose one project with one price tag that would include funding for the septic system and the renovation and could take into account outside funding.
The selectboard suggested that approach on Tuesday, Spencer said on Wednesday, adding he expected to make a progress report on Town Meeting Day. 
“The decision last night was for my committee to put all the pieces together … to make some sense to the town to move forward,” he said. “We’ve got some homework to do.”
There are other wrinkles to deal with. For one, if the town hall is subdivided from the church, which has agreed to give up ownership to the town, the land that would go with the structure would not be enough to create a legal lot.
The Town Hall Committee, with permission from the selectboard, has been talking to the Addison Central School board about a land swap to solve that problem. The school owns the land right behind the town hall and currently parks school buses on the parcel. Meanwhile, the town owns land in front of the school that even includes some of the sidewalk that runs along the school’s driveway.
Spencer said talks have been productive, but officials still have to figure out exactly what to do with the buses.
If the town offices and the almost-full vault move to a new location, another question would be the fate of the existing clerk’s office. Spencer said the town’s historical society could be a possibility, a solution that has worked in Ferrisburgh.
Spencer is optimistic the questions can be answered, with the result being a building that would be a source of community pride.
“We’re going to make this into a town center and something the town can be proud of,” Spencer said. “And we definitely need a new town clerk’s office.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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