Pownal set to move schoolhouse to town hall site | Local News | benningtonbanner.com

2022-06-15 12:11:41 By : Ms. May Lin

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This historic schoolhouse in Pownal will soon be added on to the new Town Hall building on Center Street.

This historic schoolhouse in Pownal will soon be added on to the new Town Hall building on Center Street.

POWNAL — The historic schoolhouse building that was an impetus for the new Pownal Town Hall will be moved June 21 and attached as an addition to the new building on Center Street, the Select Board said this week.

Meeting in a special session Wednesday with Historical Society members, board members also apparently resolved concerns that important features of the circa-1840s schoolhouse would not be preserved.

Society member Joyce Held said she felt the officials were “really communicating,” but that hadn’t always been the case in the past.

“That’s why we wanted to have this meeting,” said Select Board Chairman Michael Gardner.

At his suggestion, the board decided later to include the Historical Society in meetings when details of the next phase of the Town Hall project are discussed.

During the meeting with Held and other society members, there was general agreement on preserving an old blackboard in the schoolhouse. Other features to be retained include a molded tin ceiling and probably wainscoting.

In addition, the officials seemed in agreement on the use of modern Marvin windows that will resemble the original windows but have a high energy efficiency rating, and on new lighting that is expected to look like the original fixtures.

The siding, which has been stripped, will be replaced with siding to match the new Town Hall, which opened for use earlier this year year.

The schoolhouse will be moved from its nearby location on North Pownal Road to the Center Street site, adjacent to the old town hall. It will be placed intact by a crane atop a foundation section constructed for the planned addition.

During the move, the area around the intersection of the two streets will be temporarily closed to traffic, and the electric power will be shut off while the school is moved past powerlines.

The moving contractor is Gould Erectors and Riggers, of Selkirk, N.Y., and the estimated cost is just under $14,000. The move could take two days but is expected to take only one.

The town highway department will clean up the school site, remove the schoolhouse foundation and fill in the cavity after the move.

Held said the Historical Society plans a Pownal History Center in the basement area of the addition, which will be finished as a large room. The center, she said, could preserve town history and assist people searching family histories or other topics.

The society plans to donate $25,000 to that phase of the town hall project.

Commenting on budget overages for the often delayed or slowed town hall project, Gardner said figures recently confirmed by town Executive Assistant Tara Parks show the project will come in at from 30 to 35 percent over estimates.

But he said much of the additional cost can be attributed to the escalating cost of any type of construction work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is certainly in line with the cost of doing business during that time frame,” he said, adding that for the number of years since the project was first approved by voters, the increase “is not out of line.”

The project was estimated in 2021 to cost $867,337 but thus far is at $958,611, and that is expected to rise in the next phase to just over $1.2 million.

A detailed breakdown of the costs prepared by Parks will be posted on the town website.

The original projected cost was $775,000 when the project was first approved by voters in October 2019. A new Town Hall with modular construction and the addition of the old schoolhouse was planned, after the idea was proposed by the Historical Society.

However, significant permitting delays led to a second Town Meeting vote in 2021, seeking additional funding in a project bond and transfers from existing town surplus funds.

Spikes in the costs for construction labor and materials – such as concrete – led to further significant cost overruns as the pandemic deepened, officials said.

According to the updated project budget figures, the town will use just over $184,000 from its approximately $1 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funding to cover costs.

Another approximately $13,000 is expected to be used from a second ARPA fund infusion expected later this year to cover all project costs.

“This has been a long time coming,” Gardner said, acknowledging that some “noses got bent” along the way, but he said most residents seem happy with the building that has emerged.

“I’d like to personally thank everyone who had a hand in this project, from start to finish,” he said.

He noted that there was an emphasis on hiring local contractors for the work. For them, “it’s like they are working on a project for themselves, because they are,” he said.

Former town Treasurer Jim Kocsis, who often questioned officials about the rising cost of the project, called into the meeting this week to say he believes residents are overwhelmingly pleased with how the Town Hall has turned out.

There will be significantly more room in the new Town Hall, with more than 4,600 square feet in total. The old building has approximately 1,500 square feet of floor space, including a front section dating to 1928 and a rear addition built in the 1970s.

Before the ongoing project, the town had tried for more than two decades to put together and fund a replacement for the old cramped town offices.

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

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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