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Hartford Discusses Town Office Repairs

White River Junction — A presentation of possible renovations to Hartford’s municipal building prompted confusion yesterday among Selectboard members, who brought up several concerns about the status of the project.

Architect David Laurin presented three floor plans to the Selectboard. After an hour-long discussion the board gave Laurin the go-ahead to research the potential cost of one of the three plans, which would use front and back entrances while closing off the existing side doors.

But worries arose about the progression of the project, which the board hopes to put out to bond at Town Meeting in March.

At its Nov. 27 meeting, the board created a Building Renovation Committee to review the town’s previous work on the project and present information to the public, and appointed five community members to it. The committee is supposed to present its findings at Information Night on Jan. 7.

Those findings will offer changes to a building constructed in 1884 that last received a major renovation in the 1950s. In the past few years, the town has tried, to no avail, to renovate its offices. In 2009, voters turned down a $4.7 million bond to overhaul the building. A committee put together for the same purpose last year was derailed when Tropical Storm Irene came through the Upper Valley; the gears started turning once again several months ago.

When the board was asked last night to pick its favorite design of the three, Selectman Simon Dennis said he worried that it might be making decisions meant for the committee.

“We’re going to be working counter to ourselves” if there’s no synergy between the two bodies, Dennis said.

As the board broke off to meet privately, Chairman Ken Parker said in a brief interview that future discussions would need to take place to better delineate the committee’s role.

There was also miscommunication since last meeting about what Laurin’s presentation would constitute, as some board members said they expected a price tag and more detailed exterior and interior renderings of the plans last night.

However, those will be ready in a couple of weeks, Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg said.

Vice Chairman F.X. Flinn said he was “bothered” by the fact that he and the other board members had first received the blueprint-style floor plans at the start of the meeting, meaning they didn’t have a chance to pore over them in detail.

Rieseberg said the plans only became available a few hours prior.

The plan the Selectboard honed in on last night was one of two that expanded the building’s footprint, though Laurin said that the expansion would add to up less than 2,000 square feet, or a “modest amount” of additional space.

“Some of these options are going to make the building look a lot different than it is now,” Laurin said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.