Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town Hall's $1.5 million renovation starts; April deadline set for project

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
October 22, 2007

Jim Michaud / Journal Inquirer
Officials gather today to look at the new design for the reconstruction of the 3rd floor of Town Hall in Vernon. The restoration project will create new offices for the mayor and administration as well as a new council chamber.

VERNON - Town officials unveiled the design for the third-floor renovation of Town Hall today, even as work on the $1.5 million project started last week.

The three dimensional model shows how the space will be divided, with the west side devoted entirely to a new, state of the art Town Council chamber, and an office for the mayor tucked away in the rotunda on the building's southeast side.

Bead board and period lighting fixtures are seen throughout the plan, which includes offices for the finance director and town administrator as well as a large public gallery toward the center.

"We're making sure the microphones and sound system work good so everyone can hear us at the council meetings," Mayor Ellen L. Marmer said.

Preservation is paramount, Marmer added: "We're keeping the history alive here. We're going to do it right."

Workers stepped onto the scene in early September, Town Administrator Christopher Clark said, blocking off the stairwells with plastic and beginning prep work on the topmost floor.

Because it is tucked away, "I don't think a lot of people even realize it's under construction," Clark said. "But they're laying down a new floor and putting up some of the office walls and interior walls along the perimeter as we speak."

The contract for the renovation project was signed in early August, with a bulk of the funds coming from state grants.

It's been in the works for years, with designs completed in 2003. Construction work went out to bid last year, but only two developers responded, each with costly proposals of $1.7 million.

Branford developer A. Secondino was able to get his bid down to $1,406,131 by not using steel to replace a metal balcony and using smaller, individual air conditioners rather than the two large rooftop units that originally were planned.

Problems with the mortar on the northeast peak near the large circular window cropped up, and another $175,000 was raised in state grants for repointing that wall, Clark said.

The contract calls for an April deadline.

"I'm very cautiously optimistic that it will come in under budget and on time," Clark said.

Once complete, officials plan to 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.

©Journal Inquirer 2007