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Counseling Service has Middlebury building plans

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September 13, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — The Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC) has put the finishing touches on a $650,000 fund-raising campaign and is now seeking permission from the town of Middlebury to proceed with two major building projects to accommodate its ever growing list of clients and services.

The most ambitious of the projects is a proposed 19,000-square-foot building in Catamount Park off Exchange Street that would house CSAC’s administrative offices and its “Community Associates” program that provides services to people with developmental disabilities in Addison County. That program has outgrown its current headquarters at 61 Court St.

CSAC is also advancing a plan to build a 2,528-square-foot addition on its office building at 89 Main St. That structure currently houses CSAC’s adult mental health, psychiatry, out-patient and emergency services departments. The addition would accommodate four new offices; a large “group area”; a clinical records storage space; and sprinkler/fire alarm systems for the entire building.

Like 61 Court St., the 89 Main St. facility no longer meets the space needs for CSAC’s programs.

“We recently had a waiting list of around 60 people for our adult out-patient program,” said Robert Thorn, executive director of CSAC. “We’ve had the money to hire more clinicians but we have had no place to put them.”

Counseling Service officials have spent the past three years planning for the day the agency would need new space and make sure all of its facilities were accessible to disabled clients. The agency currently runs its programs out of a variety of buildings it owns and rents in Addison County. Thorn and other CSAC officials have reasoned the agency could cut down on its long-term operating expenses if it owned more of its facilities. With that in mind, CSAC in 2003 commissioned a 6,800-square-foot building in Catamount Park that now houses the agency’s administrative offices and youth/family services programs. The new building project allowed CSAC to divest itself of current rental space in offices off Creek Road, at 29 Court St., and in the Star Mill, thereby saving the agency around $28,000 per year in rent. Those savings are being applied to debt service on the new Catamount Park building.

Using that same reasoning, CSAC is proposing another, larger building within Catamount Park, while adding onto its facilities at 89 Main St. Officials estimate the combined cost of the projects at $3 million to $3.5 million. Construction debt will be paid through a combination of grants, low-interest loans, agency revenues, the sale of one CSAC’s existing properties (possibly 61 Court St.) and proceeds from the recently concluded $650,000 fund drive.

Thorn is ecstatic at the success of the capital campaign, which had its share of doubters in the beginning.

“We had never raised more than $25,000,” Thorn said. “Some experts said that $650,000 was beyond our reach.”

Those experts contended most county residents didn’t know enough about CSAC and its services to give adequate dollars for a successful campaign. But when the agency tallied the numbers last month, the ledger showed a total of 393 pledges and gifts totaling $657,316. Contributions ranged between a few dollars and $50,000.

“It’s just astounding,” Thorn said.

Middlebury’s Development Review Board is scheduled to conduct its first review of the CSAC plans on Monday, Sept. 17, at 7 p.m. in the town’s municipal building.

Thorn hopes for a favorable review so work on the projects can get under way next year.

“To us, this is a movement that will help us better serve the community,” Thorn said.

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