Letter from Selectboard Chair Brendan Deso – Proposed Town Hall

The Town of St. Albans is one of the fast-growing communities in the fastest-growing corner of Vermont. We boast a grand list over $1 billion, and projections show that we will have the largest population in the county by the close of this decade. To sustain this growth and shape our community to take advantage of this opportunity, the Selectboard is asking voters to approve Article 4 on your Town Meeting ballots to construct a new Town Hall for roughly $4.5 million dollars.

This proposal is about 20 years in the making, with Selectboards having grappled with the question to move the Town Hall or to renovate our current one. This proposed new building is just under 13,000 sq ft, is all one level, and is planned to accommodate 50 years of growth. If we were to renovate all three floors of the current Town Hall, we’d have 9,500 sq ft to work with, which could trigger the need for another major investment within ten to twenty years.

I love our current Town Hall; my grandfather went to grades 1-3 in the building when it served as a schoolhouse. However, the building’s lack of accessibility and space force our hand to do something different. Our current facility isn’t ADA compliant; folks with mobility impeding disabilities can’t access the Zoning or Assessing offices or records. Our staff does what it can to accommodate everyone, but we firmly believe every resident and visitor should be able to access our services without having to leap over very real accessibility hurdles. Also, our employees shouldn’t have to have space heaters in their offices because of inadequate HVAC. They should have the ability to use both the microwave in their kitchenette and the air conditioners in their offices without breakers kicking. This project is truly a need, not a want.

The Selectboard presented four articles across two elections in 2020 that have resulted in substantial pre-development work and the acquisition of a 5+ acre lot in the Bay area for a new Town Hall. Our final step is asking you to vote yes on Article 4 this year. We’ve proposed to use $2M in cash on hand (including LOT revenue to be received between now and March 2022) and a $2.5M tax anticipation note to fund the total cost of $4.5M.

The tax anticipation note includes a 15-year term and 3% interest rate for a total annual cost of around $208,000. If approved, this cost will be paid with future local option tax (LOT) revenue. We’ve received over $850,000/year in LOT revenue for the last couple of years, and it’s proven to be recession-proof throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything purchased online in the Town is subject to the tax, which has set the Town up to fund its major capital projects without raising property taxes. Shifting future significant capital improvement and infrastructure costs to a consumption tax instead of increasing our municipal tax rate was the vision that led to the LOT being approved by voters in 2014.

This building is one we can take pride in owning, but it doesn’t have many thrills. It focuses on needs over wants, which our Town has been known for since it was chartered in 1763.

I’d appreciate an opportunity to listen to your concerns and perspectives, so by all means, if you’d like to discuss the proposed new Town Hall or any other issue the Town faces, please give me a call any time at (802) 393-7074 or email me at b.deso@stalbanstown.com.

Brendan Deso
Selectboard Chair

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Jennifer Gray

j.gray@stalbanstown.com

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