grandstandy

Town and state safety officials are expected to visit the former Green Mountain Race Track grandstand site on Oct. 4. The town wants the ownership group to deal with the unsecured building, which burned last fall and now is considered a safety hazard.

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POWNAL — Town officials hope to learn about options for dealing with the charred remains of the former Green Mountain Race Track grandstand building, gutted by a suspicious nighttime fire in September 2020.

Select Board liaison Rebecca Dragon told the board Thursday she had participated in a Zoom conversation with state Division of Fire and Safety officials about the grandstand, and they suggested a site visit Oct. 4.

Because the concrete block-walled grandstand does not appear to be an imminent threat to collapse, she said, the officials do not believe its demolition can be ordered. The focus instead is likely to be on obtaining an order to have the site fenced off and otherwise secured.

The Green Mountain Race Track LLC, which owns the 144-acre site, spoke about demolishing the grandstand late last year, but no progress has been made, and no firm demolition plan has been submitted, Zoning Administrator and Select Board member Mike Gardner said at a recent meeting.

He recommended pushing for a solution to the vacant and unsecured structure, which is considered a safety hazard.

ASBESTOS

Dragon said further that a “huge” problem involving the three-story building, constructed in the early 1960s, is that there is a significant amount of asbestos insulation that would have to be remediated prior to any demolition project.

She said she learned that one estimate for removal of the asbestos is $1 million, adding that officials believe this “is likely why no demolition has gone forward.”

She and Gardner recommended trying again to contact the ownership group and managing member Stephen Soler of Connecticut about plans for the site.

The board is expected to provide an update about the grandstand during its Oct. 7 meeting.

ARPA FUNDS

The board also on Thursday continued discussing Pownal’s options for use of at least $335,938 expected through federal American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funding.

Town Administrative Assistant Tim Darter said two general options would be for the board to develop a plan for using the ARPA funds and then submit that for public comments, possibly involving a public meeting, or to seek input from the public before developing a list of priorities for the funds.

No firm decisions were made Thursday on funding categories, or a plan to allow public comment.

Gardner noted that Waste Water Treatment Plant Chief Operator Darcy Pruden has brought the need to upgrade one of the sewer system’s pump stations before the board in its capacity as the Sewer Commission.

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“The wastewater pumping station, I think, should be a priority,” Gardner said. “Otherwise it could be a huge hit on the taxpayers.”

Another possible public works initiative might involve a project to supply clean water to residents, although Gardner said he wasn’t proposing a specific project.

North Pownal has been considered for water supply improvements, and a state-funded study developed alternatives including a new well-supplied water system for the village, which once used a reservoir system operated by the former Pownal Tanning Co. that was abandoned when the company closed in the 1980s.

Board member Robert Jarvis suggested looking at funding for local nonprofits groups, some of which had to shut down operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

INFORMATION POSTED

Darter said he has begun posting on the town website information about the ARPA program, which includes the eligible categories for funding and information prepared for towns by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

At the suggestion of board members, he will also ask town department heads if they have funding needs that might qualify for the program.

The town also could ask the general public for its ideas while preparing a plan for using the funds, Gardner said.

Jarvis noted that the board will have time to discuss the town’s options at future meetings, since the program is expected to continue for several years before all of the amount allocated must be spent.

TOWN OFFICES

The board also learned that the modular sections of the new town office building will be set in place with the help of a crane on Oct. 6.

Gardner said all of the material for the project is in Pownal, meaning the rest of the work can proceed.

The planned move of a historic town schoolhouse from North Pownal Road to be attached to the town office structure will take place in the spring, officials have said, but board members said they expect modular sections of the new offices to be available for use this year.

The town is replacing the current cramped town office building on a nearby Center Street site.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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