Live Blogging 15 Mar 11 Selectboard Meeting

Alex DeFelice opened the meeting by giving the chair to Sonia so that he could make a presentation on the state of the board’s thinking about the town hall — basically whether to renovate the existing structure or to build a new building on the same spot. Options such as using the WRJ elementary school, or the Ottaquechee school, or the Saturn dealer up at Sykes Av are all found wanting.

The new building would be on a slab and somewhat larger, in order to accommodate a library space.

Other needs are more space for Town Clerk papers, and providing increased security for staff. Need to move ahead now while construction costs will be lower.

DeF – reading a comment from Art Peels against tearing down the old building. Sam’s desire to build a central library means he should recuse himself.  DeF then says this is not about a central library.

Presentation at April 11 Town Meeting, possibly with sketches. Bond vote in September. Claims that $500,000 will be saved if construction can begin next spring.

He’s calling for a waiver of the board policy for town purchasing, Section 5., Competitive sealed bidding so that they can go to architects/engineers without delay for sketches/plans.

Libbey – are demolition costs part of this? How about asbestos abatement?

DeF – we have the issue whether we renovate or new

Parker – What about offices for schools?

DeF – no consideration given to putting Superintendent’s Office in new building. They haven’t asked us.

Parker – there would be savings, e.g., internal network systems, phones etc would be one system instead of two.

Libbey  – would we still be in the flood plain?

DeF – yes, but we can build the building a little higher off the ground and be above the 100 year flood.

Parker – when are you looking for a vote? what about the public hearings?

DeF – in 2 weeks, and public is invited to our subcommittee meetings; and the April 11 meeting will be an opportunity for the public to chime in

Libbey – green as possible?

Def – so long as the “green effect” pays for itself in good time I assume we will have solar panels somewhere on the new building. Lifespan of this building 100+ years.

Libbey – has subcommittee given any thought of bringing in members of public

DeF – Yes, after this meeting we will try to get more people involved

Open to public questioning:

Joanne Roth – what about the renderings of the renovation?

DeF – people voted against it last time — 3 bond issues at once may have had something to do with it.

Roth – this is such a central part of the town it should be preserved.

DeF – we will document the building and provide photos etc to other town facilities

Briggs – this building is part of fabric of downtown, and is a decision for the ages. April 11 is a good starting point but I don’t feel the urgency. The building environment is OK despite its shortcomings. Suggests an Annex would be better idea. Some tenants in the building should be going back to public sector space. Must be transparent and patient about this process.

Art Peel — talking about the libraries. If town builds one in building there will have to be a town library.

DeF – nothing definite about the so-called library space

Parker – what about costs

DeF – we aren’t going to ask for any specific amount, we don’t have a budget yet

Birdie Emerson – project mgr at Upper Valley Food Co-op — we bought the building in June 2010. We’ve learned that time is money but every time we’ve slowed down we’ve saved money. The experience and technology out there is incredible, phenomenal resources in town. Why hasn’t town put out RFP over the past 3 years? I don’t think you can put something together in a month.

DeF – it’s a tentative schedule, we realize that. We need to set a goal to have a vote otherwise we’re not going to get it done.

Laurna Ricard – board to vote in 2 weeks? The board doesn’t seem to know what is being discussed

DeF – you people elected us as a board and it is up to us to put proposals together, and up to you to vote it down (ed: or up, you know what he means!)

Karen DeVille – I lived in a town where all the historic buildings came down and now that town regrets it.

Kye Cochran – Mgr Upper Valley Food Coop — we have a satellite of the Quechee/Wilder library in the Upper Valley coop. People go online and they order the book and can pick it up and drop it off.

DeF — we know that, that it is in the coop on the other side of the river (ed: I jump in and correct him “Upper Valley Coop”)

Karen Gainey – rep of Transistion Town — we’re about solutions to climate change and peak oil. Concerned about his comment on paybacks. Think about technologies we will be using 100 years from now. Instead of being scared of numbers, look at ways of being on cutting edge of technology. Have to have the right attitude. Open up to the expertise that is in the area.

DeF – some info I have looked at personally I think there is a way of doing the building so there is no cost to heating it.

Susanne Abetti — Mary Nadeau and Pat Stark do not represent the Hartford Historical Society and their remarks to the subcommittee don’t represent the position of the HHS nor are they representative of the preservation community in Hartford. A rehabilitation of this building is a valid approach — if you want a new building, build it elsewhere. This is being pushed far too fast. The idea of new construction for a new generation [DeF – history has to start someplace] . The younger generation I know loves old buildings like this. Don’t tear this beautiful building down.

Knight – denies they were invited to represent Society, Sonia claiming she invited them because they were friends.

SA – but it is in the minutes that they represent the preservation community.

Q regarding competitive bidding

DeF – policy is board policy not a legal policy

Abetti – minutes say Laurin suggests it goes to bid to satisfy public

Brent Knapp – what sq footage you are looking at

DeF 20K – 24K sq ft 3 stories on a slab.

Knapp – green doesn’t have to be exclusively about saving money

DeF – I agree 100% but we have to appeal to 10K citizens.

Me – Is the principle driver the working conditions in this building?

DeF – yes

Me – what about leasing the Saturn building? Also, subcommittee should think about presenting 3 or 4 choices in IRV type vote; secondly to really be selling the building as a 100 year building, then how about an international design competition?

Meeting ended and board went into exec session.

_____addendum morning of 16 March:

Here’s the recap I posted to the Hartford Discussion List:

Last night the select board held a meeting that consisted of selectman Alex DeFelice presenting the findings of a subcommittee consisting of himself, Sonia Knight and Sam Romano and then taking questions from the other members of the board and the public.

I live-blogged the action and you can read it at

The meeting was not videoed by CATV so you won’t be able to see it on TV.

I’ll bottom line it for you:

* the board feels there is an urgent need to significantly improve working conditions for staff, that the current building environment is very bad, especially in terms of temperature control in winter and summer; that security needs to be improved; that the town clerk needs more space (presentation and q&a)

* they’ve determined that because the town voted down a bond to pay for renovation of existing town hall, the town would reject that proposal again (per question from audience)

* they’ve decided the easiest thing to do is throw down a slab foundation in front of the existing building, build a 24,000 sq ft 3 story office building, and then tear down the current town hall (see 2/22 video of select board discussion)

* Alex DeFelice intends to have the board vote to suspend the board policy of competitive bidding so that design work can begin immediately (presentation, a to q from Lynn Bohi)

* There will be a presentation to the town at the April 11 town meeting

* There will be a vote on a bond issue in September

So it’s all happening pretty quickly.

The subcommittee meets again next week 4pm – 5pm at Town Hall

There was one very telling moment in the Q&A session when Susanne Abetti, Pres of the Hartford Historical Society, questioned the subcommittee on an item in the minutes of the subcommittee regarding input from the Historical Society. The society had not been contacted and asked to send a rep; instead committee member Sonia Knight merely invited two persons who are friends of hers to come to the subcommittee meeting to give input. This isn’t how town governance and consensus building is achieved, it’s how constituencies are made to feel marginalized. I think it became clear to Sonia that she’d made a mistake, but to me it was a very revealing moment that showed how insular Hartford town governance can be.




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The new town offices proposals sound like another example of the politicians deciding that they want something and that the voters should just fall in line.

Bond vote in September on a building that will be proposed in April, possibly with sketches, but without costs? Hmm……”Trust us”. We don’t know what it will be, or where we will put it, how much it will cost, who will use it and for what, but you voted us in and regardless of the town voting it down in the past we need it now!

Sounds like a real problem to me. I am not opposed to a thought out proposal that takes into real consideration of current and future needs. Not just for one building, but town wide.

The well reasoned and rational approach seems to have fallen out of favor these days. It’s has become a we want it and if we can create voter fear of waiting and push hard enough and fast enough we will get what we want. If the cost change, so be it we will let the voters pay the extra.

The same game is being played with the school proposals. “We need to do this right away to save”. If the voters vote something down then another version of “we need this now” appears. In most cases there is not even an attempt to convince the voters.

It’s simply a case of the politicians decreeing the voters smart enough to vote them in, but not smart enough to evaluate a set of proposals and vote in the best option.

Most voters have had to adjust their personal spending habits. There are many things we would all like, but have forgone due to budget constraints. If a purchase makes sense we will still spend, but purchases are now looked at an eye to value.

Virtually everyone I know faced with a major expenditure will now shop around for the best deal. Removing competitive bidding based on the excuse of expediency is not only irresponsible it’s an open door to overpaying and cost overruns. The voters elect board members in order to ensure that there is oversight, not to decide if and when they will protect our interests,

If the proposals have solid value then show us, if enough people see the value we will vote it in, if we don’t then respect the voter’s decision.

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