Cole Hall renovations complete

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SHAFTSBURY — The town has finished a long-needed renovation of Cole Hall, the town office building, leading to improvements in appearance and functionality, town officials say.

"It turned out great," said Tim Scoggins, chairman of the Select Board. "It kept some of the character of the old building and we still had more meeting space than we had before."

The second floor had deteriorated badly over recent years, he said.

"The ceiling and plaster and lath was falling down in places, so it looked pretty bad," he said. "The light fixtures were failing, and they were very expensive to replace."

Offices were all open — filing cabinets were used as walls. "And so a lot of the space was wasted," Scoggins said.

The renovation, which started in January and ended in mid-March, added private office spaces for the town administrator, town treasurer and zoning administrator, along with ceiling and floor work.

Before the renovation, the town administrator, town treasurer and zoning administrator all shared space.

"The town treasurer could not have a discussion with someone about their taxes .. in private," Scoggins said.

Townspeople have loved the results of the renovation, he said. "People who come in love the look of it," he said. "They're astonished, especially by the floors. They look brand-new."

People have also noticed detailing on the building's balcony railing — a fleur-de-lis pattern.

It was there before the renovation, Scoggins said. "It was just lost in the generally poor look of the place," he said.

People who work in the building are also pleased with the functionality, he said. The first meeting in the town hall since the renovation was an Act 250 hearing, held in the new meeting space, he said.

While the hearing was in progress, the town administrator, town treasurer and zoning administrator were able to continue working.

"That would not have been possible [before]," Scoggins said.

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The project was funded through reserve funding, and cost $66,630. "We had been building up a Cole Hall reserve fund for quite some time, because we knew we needed renovations there," Scoggins said.

The town still contributes to the fund, as they'd like to do more renovations.

"Our next focus is going to be on the exterior," Scoggins said. The town has commissioned Goldstone Architecture, of Bennington, for ideas about how to renovate the exterior of the building.

"At a minimum, we've got to paint," Scoggins said.

Goldstone Architecture also worked with the town on this renovation.

"This is a little bit of an unusual project, because essentially the owner did the layout himself," said Jack Byer of Goldstone Architecture, of designs done by David Kiernan, Shaftsbury town administrator.

The firm's main role was to make sure what Kiernan proposed met code requirements, he said.

"It's a common problem for towns, in terms of upgrading their facilities," Byer said of town hall renovations. "Budgets are always tight."

The town had plans in place for renovations about two years ago, but put them on hold while exploring an option to purchase an office building up the road from Cole Hall, Scoggins said.

"That didn't work out for us," he said. "So then we went back to the construction idea."

Concern about the building's condition actually goes back nine years, as the Select Board commissioned an engineering study of the building at that time, Scoggins said.

"The first thing that engineers noticed was — `yeah, Cole Hall needs work, but more pressing is your town garage across the parking lot,'" he said.

So the town changed focus, spending nine years "struggling with that," he said. The town is also finishing up a new building on North Street, to replace the old town garage.

"That's another tribute to David Kiernan, because as town administrator, he oversaw both of those projects at the same time," Scoggins said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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