The EBS property has been on the market for some time, but there have been no serious offers, according to town officials. Bethel Citizen photo by Samuel Wheeler

BETHEL — Selectmen Monday, via Zoom, voted 3-1 in favor of to tabling discussion on possibly relocating the town office until August, 2020.

Selectwoman Michele Varuolo Cole was opposed.

Cole had suggested pushing the date back almost immediately into discussion, but thought Nov. 1, 2020 was an ideal time, considering the general uncertainty of COVID-19. Selectwoman Lori Swain agreed to an extent but amended Cole’s motion, changing the date to August 2020.

Swain said she thought November was too far out.

Background

It was announced at a January selectboard meeting that an architect had told selectmen renovating the former Ethel Bisbee School for a town hall is a better option than demolishing it and building new.

Ted Dickerson, owner of TDArchitect in Bryant Pond, said it would cost between $800,000 and $900,000 to renovate the school on Philbrook Street, as opposed to building a town hall there for more than $1.2 million.

Last year town officials started discussing using the school for government offices and meeting space because it will cost $100,000 to repair the front steps to the office at 19 Main St., and Crescent Park School also requested the town no longer use the gym for voting.

Selectmen had asked TDArchitect to determine the cost of renovating the old school; tearing down the addition and building a 400-seat meeting hall; or razing it and building a town hall.

Mold is the primary reason the addition would be demolished.

Dickerson, who evaluated the school a few years ago, said he thinks keeping the original building is the better option because of the overall cost.

Much of the exterior, including windows, would have to be removed and the building would need to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards and the energy code.

“If you demolish and start from scratch, you’ll probably end up with a better building as far as energy efficiency and systems,” Dickerson said in January. “But the town should take into consideration the historical value and the fact that the new building would be more expensive, even though it would be cheaper to operate and maintain,” he said.

“While there may be some mold concerns in the addition, it appears the original structure can be safely renovated and remodeled into a functional and attractive town hall,” Dickerson said in his overview.

Selectman Lori Swain wondered if there was asbestos in the school.

All asbestos was removed when the superintendent’s office was at EBS, according to Town Clerk Christen Mason.

The entire building was evaluated a couple of years ago, according to town officials.

The one-story school was built in 1925 as Bethel Primary School. It was renamed in 1963 for Ethel Philbrick Bisbee, who taught in Bethel from 1916 until her retirement in 1963. She died in 1972 at the age of 77, according to The Bethel Journals.

Other business 

Selectmen unanimously approved the appointment of  Local Health Officer Sarah Berry. Bethel Code Enforcement Officer Toby Walker will back up Berry.

Selectmen also approved the annual Household Hazardous Waste Cleanup for Sept. 19, 2020.

They unanimously approved changing the election dates to July 14, the same as the state’s. The town meeting will now be held on Wednesday, July 15. Elections were originally scheduled for June 9, with the town meeting the following day.

 

 

 

 

 


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