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Bennington Town Hall remains closed to public until COVID-19 renovations occur

  • The Bennington Town Hall. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

  • Bennington Police Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Bennington Town offices Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/1/2020 4:04:04 PM

Plans to reopen Bennington’s Town Hall to in-person visits are stalled while the town seeks a contractor for necessary renovations. The building’s current architectural constraints increase the risk of transmitting COVID-19, Town Administrator Kristie LaPlante said, and on Tuesday the Select Board opted to continue minimizing in-person services until improvements could be made. The building has been closed to the public since April.

The primary concern is the building’s small lobby, LaPlante said. At 156 square feet, there’s no room for members of the public to physically distance themselves, she said, and the building currently offers no fresh air exchange. Furthermore, the public entrance is the only way for police officers, and anyone they might have in custody to enter and exit the building, she said. The town’s solution is to improve the ventilation system and create a separate entrance for police officers by replacing an existing window with a door, since expanding the lobby is impossible due to the building’s structural supports, LaPlante said. They’re also looking to expand the customer service window to make it more ADA accessible and add a sneeze guard, she said. The existing window is not particularly convenient for anybody outside the 5’3” to 5’8” range, she said, and was never intended to be a long-term solution when it was installed in the 1990s after a town office shooting in the northern part of the state.

The Select Board considered waiting out the COVID-19 virus, LaPlante said, but ultimately decided to come up with the safest solution for the community regardless of how long the virus threat lasts. Customers have been very receptive in the meantime, she said, although she and other town employees miss having face-to-face interactions.

The Select Board initially called for proposals for the renovations to come in by June 30, but they didn’t receive any, LaPlante said. In the future, the town is also looking for a contractor to repair the roof of the building, the cupola, and the second story’s tin ceiling after a leak was discovered, she said.


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