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Ferrisburgh board, new group, eye Union Meeting Hall repairs

FERRISBURGH — A contractor is poised to do basic structural work to Ferrisburgh’s town-owned Union Meeting Hall at the intersection of Route 7 and Middlebrook Road, while in the meantime a new group has sprung up that hopes to raise funds for a more complete fix to the historic building’s physical issues.
The Friends of the Union Meeting Hall, a nonprofit formed to restore the building, will hold its first official meeting on Jan. 9, organizer Ashley LaFlam told the Ferrisburgh selectboard on Dec. 17.
Before then Vermont Heavy Timber might have the staging in place needed to shore up Union Meeting Hall’s roof and rafters, according to Dec. 17 meeting minutes. Selectboard Chairman Rick Ebel said the board green-lighted that project at that meeting.
According to Selectman Red Muir, chairman of the selectboard’s building committee, the building might need $102,000 of structural repairs.
Assistant Clerk and Treasurer Pam Cousino said on Monday the town’s building maintenance fund now has about $56,000 in it, pending any outstanding invoices. That fund also covers Ferrisburgh’s town office building, which has developed roofing issues of its own.
The town is negotiating with its insurance carrier and Bread Loaf Construction for answers to its town office building’s problems, per the minutes, and Muir last week recommended the town increase its annual budgeted contribution to building maintenance from $30,000 to $50,000.
Even that increase would not cover what Ebel acknowledged the town would need to pay for work to the Union Meeting Hall, something that has been an ongoing selectboard discussion topic for years.
Ebel also said on Monday the building committee’s estimate for the structural work needed to the building is just a ballpark figure, and that the new Friends of the Union Meeting Hall group hopes to pin down numbers as well as fund a fix to the building, which was built in the 1800s.
“They’re working on some grant opportunities to look ahead,” Ebel said. “We need to look ahead at what’s needed.”
Laflam invited selectboard members to attend the Jan. 9 meeting at the town office building, and told them the focus would be “to determine the projects to be worked on,” according to the minutes.
Building committee member Jean Richardson also attended this past Tuesday’s meeting to go over the grant process with the selectboard, and told board members she would meet with Lisa Ryan of Preservation Trust of Vermont to “strategize about soliciting grants, schedule a site visit, and build a partnership,” per board minutes.
Ebel said the Friends of the Union Meeting Hall has “a good half-dozen” motivated members, and the board is hopeful the group can spearhead an effort to restore the building.
“I’m really pleased that folks are stepping up,” he said.
In other business on Dec. 17, the Ferrisburgh selectboard:
• Approved minutes from a Dec. 10 budget work session. Ebel said the board is on track to approve a budget at its first meeting in January, and he does not expect spending to trigger a major increase in the municipal portion of the town’s property tax rate.
“Any increase should be pretty moderate,” he said.
• Heard from Treasurer Deb Healey that the town had received 30 applicants for the position of assistant clerk and treasurer — Cousino will become town clerk on Jan. 1. Healey said she and Cousino had forwarded five applicants to the selectboard for review. Ebel said last week interviews should begin soon, and he was happy with the quality of applicants.
“It’s a good pool,” he said.

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