By MADELINE HUGHES
Sounds from the choreographed dance of construction equipment at Shelburne’s Historic Town Hall compete with Route 7 traffic these days.
About a dozen construction workers are building the $6.5 million library and town center project.
“Who knew what we were getting into?” Interim Town Manager Lee Krohn joked with one of the construction workers as they gaze onto the project.
“There are lots of moving pieces to the puzzle,” he told the Shelburne News on a tour of the project. “You have guys working inside and out to keep accelerating the project.
“At this point we are holding pretty closely to the original schedule,” Krohn said. Crews have been working five or six days a week depending on the weather because the clock is ticking – winter is coming.
So far, a few unexpected costs have come up, and it has yet to be determined how much of the project’s contingency funds will be needed, Krohn added.
The first unintended expense: the stairs to the historic town hall.
On the Route 7 side, a crew is digging out the historic town hall’s stairs. Layers of red rock and dolomite have laid under the concrete and brick for decades. Those layers finally saw sunlight again as the crew went to replace the bricks and found the concrete was cracked and crumbled.
That means the whole staircase has to be replaced. Krohn said the timing isn’t bad, and that it might as well be done while the concrete truck is running for the other side of the building.
“It’s important work to make sure the building will be sound and stable for the foreseeable future,” he said. “There is no better time than now to make those fixes.”
And as anyone who’s ever done a renovation project knows, one thing leads to another. Taking out the stairs caused the building’s columns to have to be replaced.
Now, the historic town hall is being propped up by two makeshift wooden beams. The crew had to raise the roof just a smidge to slide the original columns out, and get the new ones in without causing any instability, Krohn said.
“We didn’t know if the columns were structurally holding up the building, and we didn’t want to take any chances,” he said.On the side of the building there are nearly-20-feet wide trenches dug deep to allow crews to waterproof the foundation and install a drainage system. The improvements are intended to prevent the perennial problem of flooding, Krohn said.
Inside the historic town hall, a crew is working to fix the electric wiring and heating system, which is almost 100 years old.
The event space will remain pretty much as it was before the project, but with better heating and cooling, Krohn said. The chandelier wiring was fixed to comply with current electrical codes and will be returned to the building after construction, he added.
Behind the historic town hall, where the library once stood, a crew is pouring the concrete foundation.
“The concrete pouring is going well, there have been a couple of good days for it,” Krohn said.
Two piles of dirt nearby are contaminated soils that need to be removed.
The largest pile is classified as urban soil, which will be hauled to a South Burlington development project where it will be used as fill.
A second, smaller pile of dirt, which is currently covered, is contaminated by petroleum. The dirt comes from underneath the old library. Before the library was built, there were two in-ground fuel tanks on the site used for town vehicles, said Paul Goodrich, highway superintendent. Those tanks were removed when the library vestibule was built in 2001.
Those two tanks were still usable at the time and were moved to the town garage on Turtle Lane, Goodrich said. There was no indication at the time that the soil was contaminated because the tanks had no apparent leaks, Krohn said. The town has found a company to remove the soil for disposal in New York, he added.
Prior to the project, engineers did not foresee the amount of excavation needed. Soil testing was done, but much of the unusable soil was under the old library, Krohn explained. Additional clean fill has already been brought to the site.
The project is still on track to be completed next summer, Krohn said.
Meanwhile, library supporters have been working hard on fundraising to help offset the amount of the town’s bond. So far, more than $600,000 has been raised, lowering the $6.5 million bond by about 10 percent, said Cathy Townsend, a library trustee.
Ongoing fundraising through Nov. 15 will be matched, with donations of up to $75,000 quadrupled, Townsend said.