PLAINFIELD — As town officials get ready to finish repairs to Plainfield’s historic Town Hall, they have already laid out the next project: repairs and renovations to the municipal building.
The town will be holding an informational meeting Tuesday night to talk about the two buildings and lay out what residents will be voting on in regard to them on Town Meeting Day. The meeting will be at the Grace Methodist Church at 7 p.m.
The 150-year-old Town Hall has been closed since 2011, when an inspection showed it had structural and health problems. As a result, Plainfield had to hold last year’s town meeting in the fire station and had to get the Legislature’s permission to hold this year’s town meeting at Twinfield Union School since it is in another town.
Select Board Chairman David Strong said the biggest structural repairs to the main floor, balcony and roof structure were completed last month.
“It’s stronger now than it was when it was built,” he said of the roof structure.
The next step is to remodel and repair the basement. The town hall has a mold and drainage issue, Strong said, so the town sought and was awarded a $28,000 matching grant from the Vermont Arts Council. To help match the grant, the town is asking for $15,000 from voters on Town Meeting Day.
To make up the remaining cost, as well as pay for more changes such as a handicapped-accessible bathroom, a warming kitchen, a heating system and reinforcements to supports for the main floor, the town launched a fund drive last month. The goal is to raise $75,000 by August. Strong said $8,000 has been pledged so far and he hopes to have around $10,000 to $15,000 pledged by Town Meeting Day on March 5.
Strong said he hopes the necessary repairs can be finished in time to open the Town Hall for Plainfield’s Old Home Day, a celebration of the town and its history, in early September.
Apart from the interior repairs and remodeling, Strong said the outside of the building needs work, too. The town has applied for an $88,500 grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to replace the roof, paint the building, insulate and reglaze all the windows, and repair any damaged exterior wood. Voters at Town Meeting will also decide whether to provisionally accept the grant if the town is awarded it in March or April.
Another vote that will take place on Town Meeting Day is whether the town should look into remodeling its municipal building. Strong said the building, which was constructed in 1819, needs some renovations to suit the municipality’s needs more effectively.
The town bought the building in 2004, and it holds the town clerk’s office, the town vault, the office of the assessor, a small meeting room and a rental space occupied by the Washington Northeast Supervisory Union.
Strong said the plan is to remodel the building so a larger meeting space can be created that holds around 20 people; the current space can hold only around 10. There would also be office space for the zoning administrator, which the building currently lacks.
The larger meeting space would be created on the second floor, with the third floor being opened up for office space. The rental space would actually increase office space rather than decrease it. Strong said the early cost estimate of the remodeling is around $400,000.
With the Town Hall work nearing completion, putting money into another meeting space could be seen as unnecessary.
“The problem, in terms of administrative work, is that all the files are located at the municipal building. If you have to refer to something during the course of a hearing or meeting, you wouldn’t have access to it over at (the Town Hall),” Strong said, adding that heating the large Town Hall for a three- or four-hour meeting where not many people show up would not be economical.
Other repairs that are planned as part of the project are structural fixes to bring the building up to code, a new roof and more insulation in the attic.
Strong said the meeting Tuesday will give residents a chance to see what has been done and will be done to the Town Hall, as well as a breakdown of the plan for the municipal building.
Those in attendance at the meeting are expected to include the Select Board, the town clerk, a representative from DeWolfe Engineering, architect Sandra Vitzthum and supervisory union Superintendent Nancy Thomas.
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