Panton to repair town hall steps; voters to rule on more complete fix

PANTON — When Panton residents arrive at town hall on Town Meeting Day, they will find safe new stairs leading up to the main gathering space — and a decision to make on other renovations to Panton Town Hall.
The decision to fix the deteriorating exterior stairs was made on Dec. 19, when Panton’s selectboard and Town Hall Committee met with representatives of Brandon’s McKernon Group and accepted that firm’s bid of roughly $29,000 for the work, with the provision it be done by March.
“It is supposed to be done by Town Meeting Day. That was one of our biggest concerns,” said Selectboard Chairman Howard Hall. “Our biggest priority is safety.”
Because of the uncertainty of working on a building that dates back to the mid-1800s, the board set aside another $4,000 for a project that Hall said would at least slightly change the stairs’ appearance, but not, in the board’s opinion, for the worse.
“It’s going to have a different look to it, but it will mimic the look of the building,” Hall said.
At the same Dec. 19 gathering Hall said the board reached a consensus to ask residents whether they wanted to support a construction loan for second, larger project. That work’s list price might land in the range of $200,000, but the town has some funds already set aside for it.
That further work could replace town hall’s now unusable handicap access ramp, install handicap-accessible bathrooms on each level, and finally put the building’s cupola back on its roofline after seven years. It was taken off in 2011 to keep costs down on a roofing project.
Hall said selectboard members did not want to make the call on their own on the full project.
“We definitely want the voters to decide,” he said.
The money already set aside toward the work comes from two sources. In 2016 the town received a $25,000 Walter Cerf Community Fund grant from the Vermont Community Foundation toward restoring the cupola and putting it back on its former perch, a project that Howard said is now estimated at around $90,000.
Panton also has about $55,900 to address town hall renovations from annual Town Meeting Day contributions to a capital fund for that purpose. The selectboard will dip into that money to pay for the stairs, and the remainder can be put toward a larger project if voters back it.
The board had initially hoped that fund would be also be enough to pay to replace the handicap ramp, but after the estimate for that work came in at more than $60,000 board members decided to focus on the stairs.
Hall said replacing the ramp and providing access remains a board priority.
“We are not up to code by ADA standards. This is something I am concerned about,” he said.
Panton officials are looking at ways to allow those who would normally use the access ramp to participate at town meeting. The town clerk’s office on the lower level is accessible, and Hall said the town could provide a two-way closed circuit TV or Skype feed to that space.
Officials upstairs could monitor the feed to see if residents downstairs had questions or wanted to make comments, Hall said, and they could also vote.
“We want to make sure people are able to access the building,” he said.
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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