By MADELINE HUGHES
As Shelburne’s interim town manager is poised to take the job permanently, the high-profile municipal construction project underway is facing unexpected costs that are pushing the limits of its budget.
The Shelburne Selectboard last Thursday offered the town manager position to Lee Krohn, who has been in the post as interim manager since May. Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the Selectboard met in closed session to discuss details of Krohn’s contract.
Before that however, the board heard about how the Town Library and Municipal Campus project has incurred about $250,000 new expenses three months into the nine-month construction schedule.
“There have been costs cut, so we are not technically over budget yet,” Krohn said. He shared the figure with the Selectboard, noting that even with the complications, the project is still expected to wrap up at the beginning of next summer.
Work began on the $6.5 million project in September with $70,000 set aside for contingencies.
“That’s low for these projects,” Selectboard member Jaime Heins commented.
No one had a response to his observation. Voters last November approved $6.5 million for the project and efforts have been underway since for fundraising to help offset the total amount to be borrowed.
The project calls for building a new Pierson Library on the site of the former library, renovating the Historic Town Hall, and making some safety improvements on the municipal campus site.
Once bulldozers started, some unexpected and costly discoveries were made. Contractors found that more soil than expected was contaminated or unsuitable to build on; the cupola on the town hall building was in worse condition than expected; and other structural issues became apparent such as crumbling concrete and unstable columns on the town hall.
According to documents handed out to board members at the meeting, soil removal ran about $70,000 over budget and the unanticipated repairs to the Historic Town Hall are approximately $25,000 over budget.
The Selectboard will hear more about how to potentially balance the costs at their Nov. 27 meeting. Krohn has said he will prepare a few different budget options for the board to consider.
Residents in the audience were not pleased with the news.
Linda Riell, who has been doing renovations on her 1950s-era home, said she empathizes with the situation, and that with building projects, ‘‘Things come up.”
“I stuck to my budget and I would expect the same from the town,” Riell said. “I had to give up things to stay on budget.”
Six other residents stood up to share similar sentiments.
“We don’t have a pot of gold,” Sean Moran said. “We are being hit in a lot of ways. I don’t know how they don’t foresee some of this stuff.”
The Library Board of Trustees has been fundraising to lower the amount the town will need to bond for. The board is currently $60,000 away from its original goal of lowering the bond by $1 million. Last November, the board announced an anonymous donor who would match funds donated to the project.
The board is working to raise the remaining $30,000, because matched donations will make that $60,000.
“We’re almost at the finish line,” said library Trustee Cathy Townsend. “We’re so thankful to everyone who has donated and supported this exciting project for all of Shelburne to enjoy for generations to come. It’s so heartwarming to see the town come together on a project that will have a positive impact on our community.”
After making a conditional offer of employment to Krohn, the Selectboard and Krohn are moving ahead to negotiate a contract for him to make his position permanent.
The offer comes after a months-long search since the job became open in May when former Town Manager Joe Colangelo left for a job in Hanover, Mass. Krohn has been working as interim manager on loan from the Chittenden Regional Planning Commission where he was a member of the planning staff.
The board met in a closed-door session without Krohn Tuesday night to discuss his contract for over half an hour, then called him in for a few minutes.
The board came back and delegated Heins, who is a lawyer, to work with the consultants hired by the town to finalize Krohn’s contract. Heins will report back to the board at the Nov. 27 meeting.
The Natural Resources Committee asked the Selectboard to allocate $20,000 to purchase a 2.5 acre lot along the north side of Irish Hill Road just east of the LaPlatte River Bridge. Committee Chair Gail Albert explained that the parcel is part of a four-lot subdivision, and the developers were not planning to build on that lot, instead leaving it as open space in the subdivision.
Through the Development Review Board process, the developers Sterling Homes asked the Natural Resources Committee if the town might buy the property.
Albert described this as a “strategic” purchase for the town. The property’s 550 feet of shoreline on the LaPlatte River is of interest to the committee. It also connects to trails residents use. Pedestrians will be able to access the land using the subdivision’s road, connecting access on both sides of the river by the bridge on Falls Road.
“It has a very strategic plan of where we have preserved land before,” Albert said. “$20,000 is a small price to pay for that. We have the funds to pay for this ourselves.”
The Selectboard unanimously approved the request, allocating the funds for the purchase.
Representing the developers, Bart Frisbie told the board, “Thank you. It will be good for the town and our new neighbors who will live there.”