Vt. Attorney Staying Put

Hartford — The State’s Attorneys Office will not relocate to the newly proposed $8 million office complex on Prospect Street in White River Junction, but the developer said the project will go on.

Jeff Lively, an attorney for the state’s buildings and general services department, confirmed “the state’s attorney is not moving,” saying it was “for their own reasons.”

And the major reason is that the state prosectuors and their staff thought relocating to a new office complex on Route 4 would mean too long a walk to the courthouse in White River Junction.

State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said Wednesday keeping his office located in the Gates-Briggs Building — located within feet from the courthouse — just makes sense.

“I am about to walk back to court and I’ve been back and forth to court four times today,” Kainen said. “And I may come back again.”

Kainen admitted the walk from Prospect Street to the courthouse is only five to 10 minutes, but deemed it too long in the event that there is only 30 minutes between court hearings — which is a likely situation, he said.

“If I had a half hour of time open now, I would walk back and forth,” he said. “If I chewed up 15 minutes walking, it wouldn’t make much sense to leave if I had a half-hour gap.

“It seems ridiculous to get into a car to go back and forth to court,” he added.

Project Developer Steve Morton, of Williston, Vt.-based DEW Properties, said Wednesday he hadn’t been notified by the state that the State’s Attorney’s Office wasn’t moving into the proposed 38,600-square-foot building, which is part of the first phase of a multi-step development project along the nearly six-acre Prospect Street parcel in White River Junction.

Nonetheless, the project won’t be halted.

“The project will go forward without the State’s Attorney’s Office,” Morton said, noting that state lawyers were expected to occupy only a minor portion of the building. “I’m fairly confident I can fill that space.”

Other state departments, including the Agency of Human Services and the Department of Motor Vehicles, are scheduled to move into the office building. The State’s Attorneys Office was slated to occupy approximately 2,900 square feet, while AHS will occupy nearly 75 percent of the building.

A few of the Prospect Street Development project partners went before two Hartford boards this week — the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday night and the Planing Commission on Monday, but didn’t receive approval from either board. Approval would grant the parties the necessary permits to move forward with the project.

Hartford Zoning Administrator Jo-Ann Ells said nothing out of the ordinary was encountered with the proposed project. She said projects of such magnitude often take multiple meetings among the involved parties before approval is granted.

“Things are moving forward and things are positive,” she said.

Morton, of DEW Properties, said he hopes to gain approval from the boards by this fall, which would pave the way for a spring 2014 construction start. The Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet next on Sept. 25 and the Planning Commission on Sept. 30.

Morton said the major road block being worked through right now is the intersection of Prospect Street, Bridge Street and Maple Street — which joins the proposed project site, the new Listen at River Point center and the bridge connecting West Lebanon and Hartford.

“They are looking at the number of cars that are anticipated to be traveling through there,” Morton said. “They are considering the options that are available to creating a long-term solution.”

At Wednesday night’s zoning board meeting, Morton said it’s to be determined whether the intersection will be governed by a roundabout or a traffic light.

A meeting will be held in Montpelier on Sept. 6 between officials with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the town of Hartford and associated parties involved with the Prospect Street Development project to discuss what option would best suit the intersection, and hopefully move forward and select the best solution.

To Stay, or not to stay

Attorney Kainen said it’s likely his office will stay in the Gates-Briggs Building, but a new inside paint job, new carpeting and stabilizing the temperature inside the office are a few necessary improvements.

“We have considered looking at some different accommodations, but believe that there will be some upgrades made to our present accommodations,” he said.

Bill Laferriere, director of property management services with the state of Vermont, said officials are not presently looking at any other building options to house the State’s Attorneys Office.

Laferriere said the state pays $3,578 a month for its current space in the Gates-Briggs Building, which he deemed a “very reasonable” rent payment. Laferriere said the lease is up for renewal “right now.”

David Briggs, whose family owns the Gates-Briggs Building, said Wednesday he has routinely fulfilled the State’s Attorney’s Office’s request for upgrades to the space. He said some of the improvements included heightened security measures, including the installation of bullet proof glass. Briggs said a more than $100,000 improvement was made to the building two years ago to overhaul the central air system.

“We have always done (improvements) and we are willing to do that again,” he said.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.