November 21, 2019
Clear River Tavern Backroom
2640 VT-100, Pittsfield, VT 05762
Present: Ann Kuendig, Interim Chair, Betty Warner, Sarah Gallagher, Jeremy Rayner, Glenn Reinauer, David Larkin, Ray Colton, Carl Oertel-Town Hall Citizens Advisory Committee members; Kevin Geiger-TROC Facilitator; 32 audience members
Call to order- Ann called the meeting to order at 6:05pm and welcomed participants telling them the main purpose of the meeting was to give them another forum in which to express thoughts and ideas on the future of Pittsfield Town Hall.
Introduction of Committee Members-Ann recognized all committee members present and noted Keith Hopkins was unable to attend.
Introduction of Meeting Facilitator-Ann introduced Kevin Geiger- a senior planner with the Two Rivers Outtaquechee Regional Commission with experience in facilitating public meetings.
Overview of Advisory Committee Formation and Work-Ann briefly recapped events leading to the community meeting. In September of 2018 at the annual picnic, a resident noted that the Town Hall chimney appeared to be pulling away from the building.
Inspections by a mason and at least two contractors raised a concern that the problem might not be the chimney but may be structural issues with the building itself.
The Select Board hired a structural engineering firm to investigate which conducted two inspections in October and December of 2018.
The report from Criterium Engineers (which has been posted on the town website since it was issued) noted potentially serious structural deficiencies with the roof trusses and rafters as well as the first-floor system. Based upon Criterium’s recommendation that the floor system be reinforced before it is used for public assembly, the Select Board closed the building.
Last March, Town Meeting approved the formation of an exploratory Committee to “research any and all future options for Pittsfield Town Hall.”
One of the first tasks of the advisory committee was to determine the present condition of the building. In addition to the questions about the integrity of its roof and floor systems, the basement is prone to flood from the west and south foundations during heavy rain and snow storms.
Although the attic deck, foundation walls and rim joist had been insulated with spray foam in 2016, several items in the town-approved energy upgrade plan had not been implemented. Three walls remain to be insulated and resided; and the light fixtures in the main room have not been replaced and the entire ceiling rewired. In July the chimney fell away from the building.
To summarize its present condition, Pittsfield Town Hall is a 189-year-old building that has been moved twice in its lifetime, with a floor that engineers say is questionable support for more than 25 people, a roof that is sagging in some sections, outdated first floor electrical fixtures and wiring, uninsulated walls, leaky and crumbling foundations, decaying siding that needs to be replaced and painted. It costs the town around $2,500 a year to heat and light the building.
The long and growing list of repairs and operational inefficiencies prompted the committee to design a survey to find out from residents and taxpayers if they really needed and wanted the building to justify fixing it and if so, for what?
The advisory committee first distributed the survey online in July with a notice in property tax bills followed by social media notices and a link posted on the Town website.
The advisory committee also set up several distribution and collection points for paper copies of the survey around town and manned an information booth at the Town Bazar in August.
Survey Results Presentation-Ann presented a power point presentation on the results of Survey questions one through four.
Slide One-Two 104 Pittsfield residents and taxpayers took the ten-question survey. Ann asked the audience how many people took the survey. Only a handful indicated they had not taken the survey.
Slide Three-Four How long have you been a resident of Pittsfield?
85 percent of the responses came from residents, of which nearly 32 percent had lived here 26 years or more. 16 Taxpayers also took the time to register their opinions.
Slide Five-Six Do you believe Pittsfield Town Hall is an important community asset?
Survey respondents overwhelmingly, 67 percent, deem the Town Hall building to be important to the community with 14 percent saying no. Another 18 percent of the respondents were unsure about the importance of Town Hall
Slide Seven-Eight If you agree Town Hall is an important community asset, list all the reasons why?
67 percent felt it was an important part of the town’s history followed by nearly 61 percent who said it added to the town’s charm and character. Nearly 60 percent of the respondents said town hall has the potential for hosting other community events.
Slide Nine-Ten What events would you likely attend at Pittsfield Town Hall?
Town Meeting was the top choice among respondents with 86 percent
followed by nearly 59 percent who said they would likely to attend both the annual bazaar and concerts if held at town hall. Exercise Classes came next, followed by private functions, community theater and children’s programs.
Slide Ten-21 respondents did offer a comment on events they would likely attend. Four people said Historical Society meetings and events. Five offered different event suggestions like funerals, reunions, classes senior/ youth center, art events, medical health checks and cooking food events. Nine respondents either didn’t answer the question or put none or not applicable. Of these, we know from looking at their answers to other questions in the survey that seven of them do not believe the building is an asset, do not want to spend any tax dollars or funds on the building and want to sell, close or tear it down.
Audience Questions and Discussions-Kevin led the discussion of what functions audience members would like to see Town Hall serve. Audience members suggested the following additional services or events that could be held at Pittsfield Town Hall:
Shelter * (mini -10)
Seed Bank *
Medical exams (basic BP) *
Art Presentations *
Historical presentations *
CPR Training *
In a discussion of whether other Town buildings could be used to hold any of the suggested events or services, a star was put next to those which could be held in the basement of Town Offices.
In response to a question from Kevin on what other concerns the Committee should consider in recommending any potential Town Hall repair/renovation projects the following issues were raised:
Cost/financing-how can we afford projects given the Towns current level of debt?
Demand- would people use it?
Logistics-can we get insurance if its needed for certain programs?
Alternatives to needs and wants
Demographics- think about numbers of groups
Audience Comments and Questions:
Ray Colton-My concern is if we design Town Hall to serve certain functions how can we insure people use it?
Matt Corron-Insurance policies required for use of Town Hall might be deterring people from using it.
Gordon Gray- worked on building, it’s not square, floors out of level, outdated wiring we might be better off tearing it down.
Chuck Colton-if we add all these functions, aren’t we setting it up to ensure the building has to be torn down to accommodate additional functions aside from Town Meeting and the occasional dinner?
Ray Colton-There is still a ton of money owed on Town Offices and a new fire truck. My thought would be to fix the thing up to reopen then do additional projects later on so we don’t get deeper in the hole.
Next Steps-the advisory committee’s plan is to review all of the ideas and opinions learned from the community meeting and through the survey in an effort to recommend building options to the Select Board by its December 17 meeting. The committee will continue to collect and receive ideas and opinions on Town Hall projects from residents and taxpayers and also get cost estimates on repairs and renovations that committee members have proposed. The Committee has contracted with the Preservation Trust of VT to have general and structural reviews of the building that will be conducted by architects and engineers who offer reduced costs for this work.
Adjournment-the meeting was adjourned at 7:20
Recorded by Ann Kuendig
Approved by: s/Ann Kuendig Date: December 9, 2019