Pownal mulls new town offices, hiring administrator


POWNAL — Select Board members want to move forward on creating new town offices and deciding whether to hire a town administrator.

Members agreed last week that public meetings are needed this spring to continue with both efforts.

"At least we'll find out where everyone is at," Vice-Chairman Nelson Brownell said.

Residents voted at Town Meeting in March to have the Select Board explore hiring a town administrator. Board members had indicated it's worth exploring and it would be beneficial when the town faces projects with many moving parts, like solar developments on brownfields, and applying for grants. But there are questions, such as the specific duties, hours, and how much the new employee would be paid.

Brownell said a representative from the Vermont League of Cities and Towns could present to the Select Board. He suggested inviting members of the public as well as town boards so people can ask questions.

Town leaders also want to move forward on efforts to replace the aging town offices on Center Street.

The Town Office Committee had previously presented plans for a 5,962-square-foot building at the end of Center Street, the former site of the Bartels Lodge. But many residents who attended an informational meeting in November spoke out against the proposal's $1 million price tag and pressed officials to find another option.

The Roost office building at 2207 Route 7, which is on the market for $295,000, was suggested as an alternative. Board members conducted a site visit in December and met with owner John Chapman twice in February for real estate negotiations.

In response to an audience member's question, board members said there is currently no signed agreement between the town and Chapman.

Board members and the property owner previously discussed a written agreement, according to the minutes of a Feb. 18 Select Board special meeting. Both parties discussed an agreement in which the town would pay $1,000 into an escrow account monthly for six months. After six months, the town would be able to extend the agreement or purchase the property. Money in the fund would be deducted from the sale price, according to the meeting minutes. No action was taken.

Brownell said the town needs a better idea about what renovations would be needed. He said he believed it would take little to bring the building up to code. But walls or partitions would likely be needed to divide space since part of the building is an open floor plan.

Board members said the Town Office Committee, which was first formed 20 years ago, intends to present a less expensive plan for new construction, in addition to plans for renovations at the Roost.

The TOC chose Line-Sync Architecture of Wilmington, which created the plans presented in November, to create a feasibility study for the Roost building. The Select Board authorized $7,500 for the study, which is contingent on the town reaching an agreement with the property owner, according to minutes of a Jan. 21 special meeting.

The Select Board meeting was filmed by Catamount Access Community Television.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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