Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon council approves Town Hall projects

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 21, 2006

VERNON - The Town Council has authorized funding for two improvement projects at Town Hall, including the long-awaited renovation of the historic building's third floor.

The council voted 11-0 Tuesday to spend $10,000 to complete a 2003 design of Town Hall's third floor, which is in line to receive $1.2 million in state money for the long-planned renovations.

Republican Councilwoman Christy N. Vale was absent from Tuesday's meeting.

The additional money was needed to ensure that the old designs were compliant with state building codes and adequately met the towns' needs, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said.

The council also approved $20,000 to reconstruct a retaining wall behind Town Hall.

Clark has said that construction work for the third floor project could go out to bid by mid-November if the Town Council authorized the additional money for architect Paul P. Bailey to finish the designs.

Now largely vacant, the newly renovated third floor is expected to house new offices for the mayor and town administrator, a new Town Council chamber, and a public gallery.

Once the third floor is complete, officials will turn their attention to renovating the other two floors in Town Hall, also known as the Memorial Building. Town Hall was constructed in 1889 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During Tuesday's meeting, several council members asked about some of the features of the renovated third floor as well as any potential hidden costs down the road.

Republican Daniel A. Champagne said he wanted to make sure that there would be a break room for town employees somewhere within Town Hall. Even if a break room were not included on the third floor, Mayor Ellen L. Marmer told Champagne that the renovation would free up space elsewhere in the building and that a break room would be considered.

Republican Deputy Mayor Jason L. McCoy asked Clark if the council would have to approve any additional expenditure before construction began. Clark responded by saying that the $10,000 appropriation should be the last expenditure before the project goes out to bid and the state grant becomes available.

Meanwhile, the council also voted 11-0 to authorize $20,000 in spending to repair a deteriorating retaining wall behind Town Hall. Funding for the project will come out of the town's fund balance, officials said.

In an Aug. 23 memorandum to Marmer and council members, Clark said the wall is in danger of collapsing because of pressure from nearby tree roots. Plans call for a block wall topped by a 6-foot chain link fence, though Republican Councilman Mark S. Etre said he would like to see the town consider a more aesthetically pleasing fence for the area.

If the wall did collapse, Clark said, it could endanger an electrical substation behind Town Hall as well as nearby parked cars.

©Journal Inquirer 2006