$400K facelift to transform Cornall Town Hall

CORNWALL — Cornwall Town Clerk Sue Johnson will soon be trading her town hall office for a very tiny, Spartan workspace in a nearby trailer.
No, she’s not being banished by community leaders. She’s just going to have to go through some short-term pain for the eventual gain of a renovated Cornwall Town Hall, which will feature a new roof, new quarters for the municipal library, additional storage space and a spruced-up environment in which to conduct town business.
“It’s going to be a challenge for everyone,” Johnson said with a smile in between answering phone calls and accommodating early voting activities during a recent interview. “But I’m trying to think of it as a fun adventure I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Cornwall Town Clerk Sue Johnson will soon move out of her town hall office and into a temporary trailer space to accommodate ongoing renovation projects in the historic structure.
Johnson spoke amid the metallic hum of an excavator moving soil beneath a corner foundation of the old town hall, an early phase of $441,000 in renovations to make the structure more solid and utilitarian. Cornwall residents have been salting away around $100,000 annually since 2012 to pay for the project, which will place the town hall off-limits from Nov. 15 through much of next February.
While the rest of the region will still be in winter hibernation, the Cornwall Town Hall on Route 30 will emerge from its temporary cocoon in February with some of the following transformations:
•  Relocation of the municipal library from its current room on the main floor of the town hall to a larger, adjacent room — also on the main floor — that is currently being used for cold storage. That larger, 392-square-foot room was previously used as a kitchen for the Cornwall Grange.
•  The space to be vacated by the library will be divided into an ADA-compliant restroom, a kitchenette and a small meeting room.
•  Removal of both fire escapes from the northern façade of the town hall building. Fire escapes will instead be incorporated within the interior of the building, with emergency exits at the basement level of the structure.
•  Creation of new, enclosed storage space in a portion of the basement area. This space, Johnson explained, will serve as a secure repository for various municipal archives that are hardly ever used, but nonetheless must be maintained in the town vault. That vault is currently bursting at the seams, according to Johnson.
•  Installation of a wheelchair lift that will safely spirit disabled persons to the second floor of the town hall, where some meetings and various activities are held.
•  Replacement of the existing slate roof with a standing seam roof that will be sturdy enough to someday accommodate sola panels on its south-facing surface. Workers have already replaced a defective roof truss.
•  Reconfiguration of the town clerk/listers’ work area. The wall separating those two work areas will be removed. That communal work area will be fronted by a service counter, with window.
•  Walls and floor services will be painted and/or repaired. A rather distracting wooden pole in the middle of the big meeting room on the main floor will be removed.
Smith & McClain, a Bristol-based design-build construction company, won the bid to do the Cornwall Town Hall renovations.
Johnson will bring 40 years worth of land records and other key documents with her to the trailer behind the town hall parking lot to hopefully meet the needs of researchers. She’ll be able to retrieve other documents, as needed, from the vault during construction.
An old cold storage space in the Cornwall Town Hall will be converted into the municipal library as part of a larger building renovation project.
Meanwhile the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department has offered its Route 30 station to temporarily host municipal board meetings while the town hall is out of commission.
“I’m a little nervous about making sure everything goes OK during that interim period,” Johnson confessed. “Everyone is going to have to be a little flexible.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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