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Salisbury seeks funds for town hall work

SALISBURY — Salisbury residents on Town Meeting Day will be asked to start a savings account to fund future repairs to their town hall in hopes of getting the historic structure capable of hosting larger community functions.
Salisbury Town Hall is a 2.5-story, wood frame, Greek Revival-style structure erected in 1869. It was expanded in 1908 and then renovated in 1948 following a major fire. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is listed on the State Register of Historic Places as a “contributing building” in the Salisbury Village Historic District.
Unfortunately, the town hall has seen limited use for more than a generation due to lack of running water, handicap accessibility issues and more stringent federal and state standards for public venues. Its large, second-floor meeting room can’t host more than 49 people at a time. It continues to host the local library and occasional board meetings and small functions. But Salisbury Town Hall stopped hosting annual town meeting more than two decades ago after the community built a new elementary school that provides more ample gathering space and parking.
Municipal leaders formed a steering committee to look at ways of updating the building in a manner that would allow it to be more actively used. The town received some money through the Vermont Community Development Program for a feasibility study to “determine the physical needs and scope of work required of the structure and determine the necessary funding to complete renovations to allow the building to be used as a public community center,” according to a charge given to Wagner Development Partners, hired to do the job.
After several months of study, Wagner determined:
•  The town hall parcel is big enough to host a drilled well, septic tank and leach field.
•  Access for folks with disabilities could be provided through a combination of site grading and a ramp leading into the front entrance of the building. A “mechanical conveyance system” would be installed in the foyer area of the building to allow a person to access to the second floor.
•  An additional stairwell should be added at the rear of the building.
•  The library could remain in its current location.
•  A new, handicapped-accessible bathroom should be added, as well as a small kitchenette.
•  The walls and roof of the building need some additional structural supports.
•  The building’s operational costs could be lowered through some basic energy efficiency improvements, including though installing insulation, new or rehabbed windows, and other weatherization measures.
Wagner Development Partners officials estimated total project costs at $458,000, suggesting financing could be achieved through a combination of loans, grants, in-kind contributions and local fundraising. The recommended renovations wouldn’t jeopardize the town hall’s historic designation, according to Wagner.
Salisbury Selectboard Chairwoman Martha Sullivan said the feasibility study will give the community a nice blueprint for future repairs to the town hall. But completion of those repairs will depend largely on available resources — and Salisbury, like most Vermont towns, doesn’t have $485,000 lying around in a surplus account.
“What we desperately need is a benefactor,” Sullivan said with a chuckle.
So unless a deep-pocketed donor steps forward, Salisbury will have to create an account into which future town contributions, donations and grants will be deposited. That will begin on Town Meeting Day, March 6, with the proposed creation of a town hall capital fund. Sullivan is not sure at this point whether the community will choose to make incremental upgrades to the building in the coming years, or wait until enough money is raised to do a major project.
“I think it will be a while before we can do anything,” Sullivan said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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