KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
POWNAL -- The Select Board has voted to seek bids on the demolition of Bartels Lodge and for asbestos removal. All present board members were in favor of the motion, with board member Nelson Brownell absent from the meeting.
Nov. 1 was set as the tentative date bids would be due, but an official date will be noticed through the usual channels.
Bartels Lodge is a historic building on Center Street near the existing town offices. It was bought seven years ago for $60,000 by the town with the idea it would become the new town office. Plans to renovate it for that purpose proved unaffordable, and in the past year the lodge has been the subject
On Wednesday night the board held an informational meeting on the lodge during which most in attendance were in favor of its removal. At the meeting Board Chairman Stephen Kauppi said the town would not pay more than $13,000 for hazardous material removal and not more than $18,500 for the building removal itself.
There was some discussion before the vote was taken between members of the public and the board, much of it going over old ground. Kauppi has been pushing for the lodge's removal, saying it's an insurance liability and inaction is driving costs up and putting off a needed town hall project.
Eve Pearce, a proponent of restoring the lodge through the Vermont Preservation Trust, said tearing down a historic building would cut the town off from a great deal of federal and state funding. She and Kauppi disagree on how much funding would be lost if the building were to be torn down.
Pearce reminded the board of a letter it received in April from Montpelier attorney Paul Gillies, who in his letter said he represented a number of Pownal citizens and threatened an injunction against the board should it act to remove the lodge. Gillies cites ballot articles which both passed in March, one calling for the lodge's removal, the other for selling it to a group such as the trust. Gillies said the order of the article and number of votes they got doesn't carry weight, however the one favoring the sale is more directive.
Rosemarie Pelletier, a resident and member of the Planning Commission, said the sentiment at the meeting was not a good gauge for the town's feeling, as the board scheduled it six days prior to it happening.
State Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Pownal/Woodford, asked Kauppi what his vision for the Bartels site and town office was. Kauppi said he thinks a building can be put where the lodge is that fits the character of the area and suits the town's needs for $500,000. He said the Pownal Rescue Squad is a good example, but Pearce said a wing on the Solomon Wright Library in Pownal was recently completed for $200,000.
In other lodge-related matters, the board voted to send a letter to the chairman of the Town Office Committee, Frank Lamb, which was sent to it by the Planning Commission. The commission recommended appointing a study committee to examine what's needed in a town office, what it would look like, and financing by August 2013.
The matter was briefly discussed Wednesday night, when Lamb said a town hall committee has existed since 1993 and there was no need to go over everything again. The board decided to send the letter to him with the goal of having the committee reactivated, as it has not formally met in a number of years.