St. Albans clerk on new town hall: “The need is great.”
St. Albans’s town clerk and treasurer Anna Bourdon has served the town in some form since at least 1993, when she started working as one of the town’s three listers. Since 2007, Bourdon has managed the St. Albans Town Hall’s downstairs office as the town’s elected clerk and treasurer.
Bourdon has been quoted on the record several times now as being in favor of St. Albans’s push to build a new town hall in St. Albans Bay, often citing both the increasingly thin space available in the town’s records vault and the effects a growing St. Albans Town has had on the town staff’s historic workspace.
This coming March, voters in St. Albans Town will be asked whether to finally sign off on a proposed town hall, which would see the town leverage borrowed funds, existing funds and projected revenue to build a new town hall along Georgia Shore Road in St. Albans Bay.
Last week, Bourdon sat down for an interview to explain some of her thoughts in favor of the proposal to build St. Albans’s new town hall, describing it as “desperately” needed by the town.
“I don’t think we would be going to the voters if we didn’t need a new building,” Bourdon said.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
To take it from the top, in the past, it sounds as though you’ve supported this idea that there needs to be some form of a new home for St. Albans Town’s government.
Bourdon: Absolutely. It’s gotten to the point where there are more employees and more land records.
From when I started compared to now, there’s so much more growth. Grice Brook was just being built. Tanglewood was just being built. The industrial park was still being built. There’s just been a lot of growth.
That kind of leads me to a follow-up question. You’ve already spoken to this somewhat, but how have things changed since you started working with the town?
B: You know, when I first started here, there was just a zoning administrator upstairs and three listers. That’s it. There was no town manager.
I worked upstairs for 14 years. Where [town manager Carrie Johnson’s] office is, there was a stage, because this used to be a school. Where [operations director Corey Parent’s] office is, there was the boys’ entrance to the stage. Their breakroom was the girls’ entrance. Obviously, they’re cramped upstairs.
And the town has just really grown, and with growth comes more records, which makes our vault feel extremely small.
Editor’s note: The clerk and treasurer’s office is located on the town hall’s first floor. Other officials, like the town’s manager and zoning administrator, have offices on the town hall’s second floor.
With regards to land records, about when was it that space really started showing itself as a concern?
B: I want to say it was probably between 2008 and 2009, when we had a company install rolling shelves in the vault because we had no more room to store land records.
That vault used to be a working vault. There was a big workstation in the center where researchers and lawyers could work in there, but then it just became too small.
Editor’s note: Under Vermont law, municipalities are required to keep physical copies of certain land records dating back to the town’s founding. State law requires those records be kept in a fireproof safe “of sufficient size.”
How long do you think you have until the town’s vault is full?
B: I’d say no more than two years, maybe a year and a half. Like I’ve said before, we do about a book of land records a month.
I mean, I kind of grew up here, so my heart is with this building, but it gets to a point, you know? It’s like I’ve said before: When you’ve got a lot of kids, you have to find a new house.
For a lot of people, this building has a sentimental value. I’m wondering whether it has a sentimental value for you and how you reconcile that with the need for a new town hall.
B: I have a lot of good memories in this building. There’s been a lot of people who have passed away who I have fond memories of and shared a space with in this building.
But I think this building, once we leave, could be an added feature to the people down here. Once it sits empty, I think anybody with a vision could do a lot with this building.
I tell people I think it’s a good idea and it’s time.
It sounds like you share the opinion that a lot of others have – that there should be some form of another life for this building after the town moves out.
How often do you have people come through the town hall with some form of mobility challenge, because, as I understand, accessibility is a very real concern here?
B: There’s a buzzer outside the hall’s handicap door. They’ll ring it and I let them through, and, obviously, if they can’t get upstairs, whoever they’re here to see has to come down and meet them in the selectboard’s meeting room. That happens maybe a handful of times a year.
To get in from the handicap accessible entrance, it’s not an obvious path to the clerk’s office. I’m wondering about how accessible you feel the clerk’s office is?
B: It’s not very accessible at all. I can either bring them through the selectboard room, which can be a longer walk for some people, or we can cut through [the basement hallway], and that’s kind of creepy to some people.
It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes, when you tell people to come in through the side entrance and take a left, they don’t cut straight through the basement hallway. They think they have to go into the basement before they realize, ‘oh, I’m in the wrong place.’
To wrap things up, how would you, personally, summarize the need for the town to build new offices?
B: I think the need is great, I really do. Change is really hard for a lot of people, but once you accept it, it can be a good thing, you know? And [the new hall] is going to be something to be proud of.
I don’t think we would be going to the voters if we didn’t need a new building. We desperately need a new building.
St. Albans Town’s selectboard has approved mailing every registered voter in St. Albans Town a ballot for the town’s upcoming Town Meeting Day elections.
Voters in St. Albans Town can expect to receive a mail-in ballot sometime in February and will be able to mail completed ballots to the town or drop completed ballots off at the town’s offices in St. Albans Bay.
Those preferring to vote in person can still do so at the Collins Perley Sports & Fitness Center on March 2, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.