Barre City Hall facelift on the horizonDecember 27,2012
By David Delcore
BARRE — Maybe you can’t fight City Hall, but nobody ever said you can’t give it a well-deserved facelift.
That’s what is being proposed in Barre, where city officials have been presented a plan to spruce up the fašade of the prominent building that has stood at the corner of North Main and Prospect streets since 1899.
The project has an estimated price tag — just south of $115,000 — and a funding source: some of the money that Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city at his death in 2009. The need to tap the so-called Semprebon Fund, which has already financed a host of other civic improvement projects in Barre, could be reduced by as much as $20,000 if the city is awarded a state grant.
The work, which is partly cosmetic and partly structural, amounts to architectural plastic surgery. Think a tummy tuck and Botox — nothing radical, just an attempt to turn back the clock on a historic building that long ago started showing signs of its age. From peeling paint on its window sashes and sills to unsightly stains that can be traced to the rusting fire escape that snakes up its south-facing wall to the Barre Opera House, City Hall could sure use a little attention.
So says Jay White, an architect who — working with a city committee — developed a proposal that will accentuate some of the building’s most interesting attributes, address deferred maintenance and deal with a couple of cases of functional obsolescence.
The most striking changes would be to the front of the building. A concrete ramp that doesn’t meet federal accessibility standards would be ripped out, granite steps would be replaced, and the entrance to a portion of the building that once housed the city’s police department would be removed.
According to White, the concrete handicapped access ramp would be replaced by a painted metal version that would be a little longer, less steep, removable and located on the opposite side of the new front steps to City Hall.
The black ramp would run beneath the green-trimmed window of the city’s zoning office, which would be replaced and modified, then mimicked next door where steps leading up to the door of the former police department are now located.
Repointing some of the building’s brick- and granite-work, repainting wooden sills and sashes, and ordering two custom-made oak doors for the front entry are parts of the proposal, as is a plan to install some ornamental lighting fixtures and LED spotlights — one to illuminate the flag and the other to illuminate the semicircular stained glass window at the top of the arched entry to City Hall. The stained glass window, which is 12 feet wide and 6 feet tall, is part of the Opera House and would be lighted both inside and out to draw attention to it, White said.
Although fire codes prevent the permanent removal of the fire escape on the south side of City Hall, White said, it would be removed temporarily, sandblasted, painted with a rust-proof black paint and replaced after stains that streak the side of the building — a mix of yellow brick and Barre Gray granite — have been removed. The cage at the bottom of the fire escape would be removed.
Other changes to the south side of the building include installing a new oak door at the side entrance replacing the glass and aluminum fixture there. Basement windows would also be blocked in with granite and ornamental lighting installed. An obsolete alarm bell at the side entrance would be removed.
The rear of the building, which serves as the handicapped-accessible entrance to the Barre Opera House, would not be changed. That fašade was redone as part of a $1 million project that was completed in 1993.
White said he would like to solicit bids next month and predicted the work could take up to four months. The City Council will ultimately decide whether to appropriate funding for the project.
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