The Proctor Selectboard took steps to regroup after a plan to repair and renovate the town office was defeated last week. In a close voice vote, an article to use $161,660 in surplus funding for repairs to the front wall of the town office building and renovations to the clerk’s office was not passed by voters at Town Meeting.
Voters did not seem to be bothered by the price tag attached to the project, but by other concerns that were also echoed by the selectboard.
“To me the biggest complaint from everyone was the ADA compliance,” selectboard member Judy Frazier said. “It wasn’t even the dollar amount as much as it was that point.”
The town has been mandated by VOSHA to fix some issues in the clerk’s office after an environmental review of the air quality in the office found asbestos and conditions that could cause mold.
The selectboard, along with Town Manager Stan Wilbur, discussed several possible scenarios to move forward. One was a plan presented at Town Meeting that would cost $167,429. The plan would address ADA concerns in the town clerk’s office, such as widening the bathroom and leveling the floor.
An enhanced plan would also add a chairlift in the clerk’s office to make the meeting room upstairs ADA accessible. This would add around $50,000 to the cost, but 75 percent of that would be grant eligible.
“The numbers are not the relevant thing, I don’t think,” Wilbur said. “I think the relevant thing is what are you going to do with this building.”
Wilbur said he has also asked the architect to draw up plans for an exterior stairwell elevator lift, which would save room in the office interior.
“Adding an interior lift would cause them to lose 50 square feet of work space downstairs,” Wilbur said of the already cramped clerk’s office. “I don’t think we have enough space downstairs to handle what we have to do.”
Wilbur did not yet have a sketch or any numbers on what an external lift would cost. Mary Fregosi, chair of the Proctor Free library board, offered a solution for the selectboard.
“We have nothing going on at the library on Monday nights and I would welcome the selectboard to use the library,” Fregosi said. “The library is ADA accessible and everyone would be able to attend.”
Wilbur suggested that the board could decide on the simple plan, which would make the clerk’s office ADA compliant, and hold meetings in a different, ADA compliant building as a way to find a cost-efficient solution.
The town currently has $161,660 in surplus funds and $50,000 in additional town office funds. Selectboard member Ben Curtis asked if the town waited to fix the front wall, would the surplus funds be enough to cover the clerk’s office repairs.
“You would need voter approval to transfer the money, but yes, you could do the downstairs with what’s in the surplus,” Wilbur said. “I think tonight is a matter of sorting out what we’re doing.”
Wilbur suggested holding an informational meeting to talk about the building with interested parties.
“We have done the full-blown plan, we have done the cheap and dirty plan and nothing gets through,” selectboard member Tom Hogan said. “I don’t know what the taxpayers want right now.”
“I think that when we go to vote on this again, we ask for a show of hands instead of a voice vote,” Frazier said.
Bob Protivansky, who has been unable to attend meetings due to a health condition that left him unable to climb the stairs to the meeting room, made a motion, which carried, that the discussion be postponed until the next meeting in the library when he could attend.
Wilbur also had numbers for what a new building would cost, although that option was never seriously discussed. Chair Bruce Baccei said in a separate interview that the town would need around 3,000 square feet, and finding a freestanding, one-story building that size would not be cheap. Wilbur had an estimate of about $625,000 for a new building on town property in the park of that size using $150 a square-foot plus sitework as his estimate. The board also elected officers. Bruce Baccei was narrowly elected over Judy Frazier for the board chair position by a count of 3-2. Frazier was elected as vice-chair and the board selected The Reporter as the newspaper of record. The next meeting, and all future meetings until the ADA accessibility is addressed, will be held in the Proctor Free Library.