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Town meeting in Brandon will return to town hall

BRANDON — After decades of gathering at the Neshobe School gymnasium for town meeting, Brandon voters will return to the Brandon Town Hall for next year’s first Monday evening in March.
The town of Brandon has re-claimed maintenance of the town-owned Town Hall, and there has been a flurry of activity in recent weeks, with long-overdue repairs made to the roof and heat installed in the main hall.
Selectboard Chair Doug Bailey told the Brandon Reporter that money was earmarked in the budget for heating the Town Hall.
“It was identified as a need we had because we want to use this building for town meeting next year,” Bailey said, “so we wanted to get it heated.”
Until Brandon’s 2013/2014 budget crisis, the town appropriated $10,000, then $15,000 a year, for upkeep on the historic building, built in 1861. In 2014, that figure was cut back to $10,000.
Now, the town has increased that amount to $20,000 and moved the line item to Public Works, and that is how the town is paying for the new furnace and the roof work, plus some surplus from Public Works.
Town Manager Dave Atherton said that Fyles Brothers installed the furnace, and local carpenter Tim Shields did the finish work, joining the historic interior with the new furnace room and the ductwork.
As for the roof, a gleaming new copper roof cap is now visible down the ledge of the hall’s peak, and repairs were made on the slate roof where needed. The roof repairs were done by Sbardella Slate Inc. of Fair Haven for a fraction of what originally had been quoted to the Friends of the Town Hall, the nonprofit group that has been fundraising and maintaining the hall for nearly two decades. Sbardella’s repairs cost roughly $7,500, Atherton said, and the furnace installation cost under $30,000.
At a regular meeting on May 2, the Brandon Board of Civil Authority, which oversees elections and polling in Brandon, voted in favor of moving Brandon’s town meeting from the Neshobe School to the Brandon Town Hall.
Bailey said other locations were discussed, such as the Senior Center, the Brandon Fire Department and the American Legion.
“Each one had some sort of glitch in reality, so the town hall came out on top,” Bailey said.
While town meeting will happen in the main hall upstairs, voting booths will be set up on the lower level in the same room where the selectboard currently holds its regular meetings. In fact, Bailey said he is hoping that voting for the Vermont Primary in August and Election Day in November will take place in the Brandon Town Hall. He said the BCA will hold more meetings to iron out the details and hopefully vote to approve moving Brandon’s polling place from the Neshobe School to the Town Hall.
 The Friends of the Town Hall group is responsible for the care and maintenance of the Town Hall. Relying heavily on fundraising and donations, the FOTH, as it is known, has spent countless hours raising money and making improvements. In fact, the FOTH has raised more than $900,000 through donations, an annual campaign, sponsorships, ticket and concession sales and grants since 1998.
The FOTH was told three years ago that the entire roof needed replacement to the tune of $200,000-$300,000, and a vigorous campaign to raise the money was launched.
FOTH President Dennis Marden said the group will continue its fundraising to pay for programming and matching grant funds. He said money raised toward roof repair will be put to good use inside the hall.
“Any monies collected during our annual campaign for roof repair will be used for a variety of projects inside the building such as the ceiling in the main hall, stage floor replacement, painting, dropped ceiling in the meeting room, etc.,” he said.

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