By Jason Starr
Colchester’s elected boards and commissions have a new meeting space on the third floor of town hall.
The selectboard held a ceremonial ribbon cutting before breaking the ice on the “Outer Bay Conference Room” with a meeting last Tuesday. The third floor also features the new “Inner Bay Conference Room,” a smaller space for meetings closed to the public.
The third floor was previously an unfinished attic in the town hall at 781 Blakely Rd., built in 2008.
Town manager Dawn Francis thanked taxpayers
for approving an expansion of the annual capital plan in 2014 that helped fund the project and a new maintenance building at Airport Park that was also unveiled last week.
Colchester resident and architect Rebecca Arnold, the lead designer of the building nine years ago, designed the meeting rooms. Another Colchester resident, Dave Bogue, was lead contractor, and Colchester’s Glen Cummings did the electrical work.
Vermont Correctional Industries, staffed by workers in state prisons, provided the desk for board members at the front of the room.
The selectboard, development review board and planning commission will hold regular meetings in the new space. Colchester’s boards and commissions traditionally met in the Town Meeting House on Main Street. Selectboard chairwoman Nadine Scibek said the new space is superior in terms of acoustics, air conditioning and executive session space.
She described how board members would sit on tiny chairs in the basement of the meeting house during closed-door meetings. The space is primarily used for toddler playgroups.
With the new space freeing up the meeting house, leaders at the Burnham Library next door plan to expand library programming into both floors.
“It is really exciting to know we have the extra space,” library director Kelly McCagg said. “[We will] become stewards of the village green, ensuring that aspect of Colchester, which people really cherish, is maintained.”
Bob Henneberger, president of the library’s board of trustees, said preliminary plans for the meeting house basement include a co-working space with computers and desks available for freelance workers. He also envisions a makerspace with workshops for mechanical and technological creations as well as crafts and food.
Library staff and trustees recently completed a five-year strategic plan that anticipates use of the meeting house.
“We will serve as the catalyst for the incubation of ideas, connections and development,” the plans states.
The upstairs space will allow the library to meet demand for programs currently limited by the confines of the Burnham building, McCagg said. Specific uses for the space will change to meet community needs, according to the strategic plan.
“[We will] develop a plan for use of the meeting house … to provide flexible space with multiple uses,” it states.