Pawlet Hayfield Becomes a Quarantine Art Gallery


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We all need art and creativity to help make sense of the world, especially during a time of crisis. But so many things are online by necessity now. How can people experience art without the involvement of a screen?

Because my husband Steve and I create art together, we’ve been thinking about this issue a lot.

Then recently we thought: drive-by artwork. Yes!

Driving down River Road, residents of the area will now notice the result of our efforts: a ten foot by 42 inch artwork placed in the hayfield across from our house. Entitled My Heart is Very Big, it is intended as a gift to our friends, neighbors, and community, a work of art that people can enjoy while still following quarantine regulations and being safe.

The work is meant to be legible from the road, and depicts an image of a woman in a field carrying a basket. Around her are painted the words: My heart is very big. Sometimes I wonder if it is big enough.

We hope to make more artworks to display in the field; people are welcome to park in the parking lot of Indian Hill Gallery (671 River Road) if they would like to approach the works on foot. We hope the works bring a positive art experience to folks during this unusual and challenging time.

Come see it!

For more information about My Heart is Very Big or other artworks by EveNSteve, please visit

Article One Defeated- So What Next?


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The results of the vote came in Tuesday night and Article One did not pass. Out of 494 residents who voted on the issue, 205 voted in favor and 289 voted against. If you’ve read my blog before you’ll know that I think this a good thing- the right decision.

Official results of the Pawlet March 2020 Vote

But I think it would be wrong to say I’m “happy” about it. I can’t be happy about it, when clearly problems at the library exist, and a way forward to fix them has yet to be identified. The most pressing problems being:

  • falling snow and ice on all sides of the building, both in front where cars are parked, and in back where the handicapped access ramp is
  • the concrete front steps are crumbling and need to be replaced

Lastly, we know the handicapped access at the library is currently in compliance. But recent conversations have raised the very important, and more complicated question: is the existing handicapped access at the library sufficient?

In historic buildings like the library, where handicapped access is always going to be a compromise with issues of preservation, it is common for a handicapped access expert to be brought in to make an assessment.

This should have been done at the beginning, of course, before an architect was hired by the Select Board and thousands of dollars spent on a plan that will, in all likelihood, never be used. But it’s never too late to do things right. It is what we, as a community owe to anyone who ever has or ever will need handicapped access- and as we all know that could be any one of us.

If you think this is a good idea, please send a note to the Select Board via the town clerk – and tell them we need a handicapped accessibility assessment of the library done- as soon as is possible. Or call: 325-3309, ext.301. Or tell a selectman in person when you see them. This is, I think, the best way to show our love for the library, and our fellow townspeople, and get back on the right track after going down a dead end for far too long.

Library Project Vote On Tuesday


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By now I hope everyone has heard about Pawlet’s proposed library elevator project, aka: Article One on the town ballot.

For the last few weeks I’ve argued that this project has been poorly conceived, inadequately researched, and at an estimated cost of $295,000, it is inappropriate for Pawlet to take on at this time. Specifically:

  • We’ve seen no breakdown of construction budget.
  • The Select Board has never voted to endorse the project.
  • There have been no accessibility experts consulted.
  • By the library’s own projections, it will cost individual taxpayers between $165 and $765, and that’s if there are no unexpected costs.
  • There are always unexpected costs.

I’d like everyone to recall that the current incarnation of the library in the former schoolhouse was funded 100% without taxpayer dollars, at a lower total cost than this proposed elevator.

I’d like to remind everyone that the library already has fully-compliant handicapped access, without which they could not open their doors, including a radiant-heated ramp and two handicapped accessible bathrooms.

A recent mailing to town residents puts forth an alternative plan that proposes to fix existing problems by:

  • Replacing the crumbling front steps (desperately needed, yet not a part of the currently proposed plan and budget)
  • Install snow guards
  • Install a push plate, automatic door opener to handicapped entrance
  • Use the existing radiant heat in the ramp, which currently is turned off

The estimated cost for this alternative plan is $45,000. If we can fix existing problems at a fraction of the cost, this should be seriously considered.

A vote against Article One is not a vote against handicapped accessibility, nor is it a vote against the library or fixing problems at the library. Rather, voting against Article One is a vote in favor of doing things properly, with experts, with budgets, and with transparency.

I hope anyone who still has questions about the proposal will attend Town Meeting tonight: 7PM Monday, March 2 at the Mettawee Community School.

And I REALLY hope everyone comes out to vote on Tuesday March 3rd at the Pawlet Town Hall between 9AM and 7PM.

This is the not-at-all-confusing way it will be worded on the ballot.

NOTE: When you go to vote, please note that the library project is listed FIRST on the ballot: it is Article One. Often in past years the town budget was Article One, so it is extremely important voters read the ballot closely. Be aware too, that it is worded so as to be almost incomprehensible. Seventy-nine words, no less.

Don’t you just love politics?

No matter what your views, please come out and vote.  More important than any single issue is the participation of every resident in the decision making of our town. No idea or project is the enemy- apathy is the enemy. I truly believe that.


What Happened at the Proposed Library Project Meeting?


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I’m delighted to report that there was a very nice turn-out for the Library Board Informational meeting about the proposed elevator project: about 40 people showed up, and on a very cold, Vermont Sunday afternoon in February, that’s really saying something.

The Library Board, and specifically board member Sally Caras, gave a very comprehensive Power Point presentation, for which they should definitely be commended.

The Argument in Favor

Sally Caras explaining details of the proposed architectural plans

To super-summarize, the message was this: the library’s needs are changing and evolving. The Strategic Plan completed last spring indicated residents want the library to be a social center of the town that provides space for meetings. The Matt Waite Room in the basement would be an ideal candidate for additional meeting space except for the fact that it is not handicapped accessible. Additionally, the handicapped access that the library does have is problematic: despite the fact that it meets ADA requirements, falling snow hinders access and there are complaints that the ramp is too steep.

The proposed elevator project solves both these concerns and, according to the library board, is likely to get funding of up to approximately one-half the estimated $295,000 price tag. All we have to do as citizens of Pawlet is vote to approve article one on March 3 and the process of securing grant money can begin.

The Argument… Against?

 Just for the record, I’m not against handicapped access to public spaces, nor am I against improving existing handicapped access. I don’t think I know anyone who is.

What I have a problem with is this particular proposal, and, in a nutshell, here is why:

  1. The Select Board has never voted to endorse this project.

At the meeting, the Library Board gave the impression that this project has been endorsed by the Select Board. It has not. They put it on the ballot instead of making a decision themselves.

  1. Where are the numbers?

Check out the library website for a PDF showing a breakdown of six different scenarios. (They show how a bond taken out by the town could affect taxpayers to the tune of between $165 and $765, total cost, over either 20 or 30 years.)

But here’s my question: where does the official estimate of $295,000 come from? Ralph Nimtz, the architect of the plans, was at the informational meeting and he said the numbers come from a “very reputable contractor in Rutland.” When pressed to give a general breakdown he was unable to give specifics of any kind, save that the lift itself would probably be about $30,000. When I asked if new front stairs were part of this estimate, Mr. Nimtz said they weren’t but could add anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 to the total cost.

I’ve never heard of a construction project that did not have an estimated breakdown of expenses. It’s important to have the numbers available to voters so we know what we’re voting on.

It’s also important to remember that the original library project, which converted the schoolhouse into the facility we use today, was not funded by taxpayer dollars. It was funded exclusively by grants and donations from individuals. Because the use of taxpayer money is being proposed here, it’s even more important to have those specifics.

A full house on hand for the informational meeting last Sunday

  1. Where are the experts?

I’ve been reading up on ADA compliance, (on the Department of the Interior website.) When dealing with a historic building, it’s important to understand that there is no one perfect way to provide accessibility.

For example: Did you know that the recommended ideal is to have the handicapped entrance be the same entrance the general public uses? I didn’t, but it makes sense.

So… why aren’t we proposing to put the new elevator on the front of the building?

Because, of course, sticking an elevator on the library front entrance would drastically alter the beautiful and historic facade built in 1912. By having handicapped access in the rear of the building we’re compromising. In adaptive reuse of historic buildings, compromises are a given. Beyond meeting the federal and state requirements for handicapped accessibility- which the Pawlet Library does- the question is how do we strike the right balance between best practices for accessibility and best practices for preservation. It’s a judgment call: what is reasonable?

For questions such as this it is common to hire an accessibility consultant. Also highly recommended is to incorporate a person with ability challenges into the planning process.

Did our Library Board do those things? In their very thorough presentation there was no mention made of either.

  1. The order of events is all wrong.

When I went to the library board meeting back in December of 2018 and first learned of this proposed project, they could have said it was a good solution to a problem of inadequate handicapped access.

But, that’s not what they said. What they said, more than once, was (and I’m paraphrasing here, but not much): We don’t necessarily love it, but the Select Board wants it. We have to play ball.

I’m not big on playing ball, especially when it concerns spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I know how tight our town budget is causing many important maintenance projects and upgrades to get deferred year after year.

At the informational meeting, you’d never know the library board didn’t love this proposed project only a few short months ago. The way it was presented, it seemed like a very natural progression: the public asked for meeting space, and so we made a plan to accommodate more meeting space.

The only problem is that this timeline is backwards: the strategic plan came out in spring of 2019, whereas the architectural plans were created in 2018.

That’s why I’ve described this plan as a solution looking for a problem: the solution was drafted first. Who cares what order it happened in? Well, I think the order in which events occur can tell us a lot about the motivation behind them. I’d feel a lot better about this project as a voter if this process hadn’t put the cart approximately a mile and a half before the horse.

A Final Thought

By writing about this as honestly as I can, I have become a bit of a target; I’ve been accused of having ulterior motives.

None of these accusations are true. I have the greatest respect for accessibility concerns and I contributed to the fundraising effort to install an elevator in the Town Hall. Both my father and my mother-in-law are handicapped so it is never an issue far from my mind. I have great respect for the memory of Matt Waite, who I considered a friend.

Leaving the meeting on Sunday I had a lot of different thoughts. I thought if I had never heard of the proposal at all, and simply showed up at the polls to find it on the ballot, I would surely have voted in favor of it. Handicapped access? Support the library? Of course. It’s a no-brainer.

But because I know a little more, I’m concerned. Process is important. Transparency is important. Just like any household, our town only has so much to spend, and we can only take out so many loans. It just makes common sense to prioritize town improvements. Does this plan for more meeting space represent the number one thing our town will need over the next decade? Do we need this more than we need the roads to be fixed, during this year of endless mud season? Do we need this more than a new town garage?

Whatever the current Number One Priority turns out to be, then we need to identify a solution, in the process incorporating experts and detailed estimates from more than one source. Most of all we need our Select Board- our town leaders- to have an opinion on such matters. And then they should actually do something about it.

Five Things Not Mentioned In the Library’s Mailer. Or Six.


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I’m happy to spread the word that the Pawlet Library Board is hosting an informational meeting about the $300,000 proposed elevator project, which will be on the town ballot for the March 3 vote.

A letter announcing this was sent this week to every Pawlet resident, but for those who may have missed it, the meeting is from 2-4 PM on Sunday February 9th. (I almost missed it myself. Strangely enough, my flyer got lost in the mail.)

Seen this yet?

As a long-time library supporter who spent years on the Pawlet Projects Committee organizing and fundraising for the library renovation, as well as a former Library Board member, I feel that the more information we have about a proposed construction project for the library, the better.

To that end, there are some things that should be noted that are not mentioned in the library’s mailing that I think are important to know. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. The Library Board is not unanimous in its support of this proposed project.

2. The Select Board is not in unanimous support of this project.

3. No one had ever complained about access to the lower level room.

4. The library is currently to code and ADA accessible.

5. Grants will not pay the full cost.

6. The roads of Pawlet are in extreme disrepair.

Let’s take these points one at a time:

1. The Library Board is not unanimous in its support of this proposed project. The letter sent out is signed by four out of five Library trustees. The one omitted is the one dissenting member. That member is Marty Kravitt, whose design for the original library renovation in 2002 was given as a donation to the town, and later won an award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

(Would you be surprised to know that his letter got inexplicably lost in the mail too?)

2. The Select Board is not in unanimous support of this project. In fact, over the last year only one Select Board member has expressed continuous support of the library elevator and that is Ed Cleveland.

Ed Cleveland, you’ll recall, is the Selectman who responded to the library board’s concern about falling snow on the handicapped access ramp by hiring an architect from Rutland and spending over $12,000 of the town’s money to date on plans. The resulting proposed solution would put in an elevator to the basement, as well as adding a bathroom and kitchenette. This is how we mitigate falling snow?

But if the Select Board doesn’t support it, why is it on the ballot? you might ask. With the exception of Ed Cleveland, none of the members of the Select Board seem prepared to fully support or oppose the project- by putting it on the ballot they are, it seems, acting in the time-honored tradition of “passing the buck.”

3. No one had ever complained about access to the lower level room. I know because I asked at the Select Board meeting of Dec. 18 2018 and it is recorded in the minutes of that meeting. It was only several months after that fact was pointed out that reportedly two letters of complaint materialized.

Excerpt from the Select Board meeting minutes of Dec. 18, 2018

4. The library is currently to code and ADA accessible. The problem is not the access ramp, the problem is falling snow on the access ramp. There are other improvements that have been proposed to address this problem: roof snow guards or a ramp roof. Either of these alternatives would be a fraction of the cost of the proposed elevator.

At the same time, nowhere in the proposed plan is any mention made of another very real problem: the library’s crumbling front steps. Again, re-pouring concrete steps would be a fraction of the cost of the elevator proposal, and it’s something which- unlike the elevator- everyone seems to agree is desperately needed. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we spent $300,000+ to put in an elevator in the building rear, only to have a lawsuit brought against the town from someone who fell down the front steps?

5. Grants will not pay the full cost. The library pamphlet makes much of the possibility of grants to fund a portion of the project costs, but it is important to note that grants are hard to get and none are guaranteed. In addition, most of these grants are matching grants, meaning the town will have to come up with a matching amount of money to whatever grant is awarded.

6. The roads of Pawlet are in extreme disrepair. Considering a project of this cost when residential roads lie impassible, residents are unable to get to work or school, and 65% percent of the highway budget is already gone for the fiscal year­— when the Select Board is literally arguing over pennies on the tax rate to buy road gravel— is unconscionable.

Lastly, I’d just like to mention a story I heard recently. I heard the other day about a person who said they would vote in favor of the library project because “we are Library People.” I too, am a Library Person. I took my children to the library for years to story-time, to Miss Dot’s Ballet classes, and to events like the holiday craft fair. I organized a birthday party to celebrate when the tenth anniversary of the library’s new home came around and I even baked the cake. I’ve donated time, money, books, toys and artwork to the library.

I am deeply saddened by the divisiveness of this issue, and I would like to dispel the notion that just because one opposes a particular proposal for the library, it means they don’t love the library. That’s like saying: if you don’t love the fact that our road crew is underfunded, then you must not love Pawlet. No- far from it. If you love something, and have an opinion about it, then I feel it is your obligation to get out there and fight for what you think is right, and makes sense.

This is why I argue we should Vote NO on Article 1 on March 3, because the library does need a solution, but this is not the right one.




Guess What? Library Elevator on the Ballot for March

Last night the Pawlet Select Board unanimously voted to put the $300,000 Library Elevator Project on the March 3rd ballot for town vote.

Folks, I love the library. Everyone in that room last night loves the library. I have yet to speak to a person who doesn’t love our local library. But this is a project I believe our town cannot afford.

The librarian explained that grant money is being pursued to help fund the project. But we all know that grant money is not assured, and virtually all of the examples she cited are matching grants.

What was most glaring to me about this meeting was what preceded the library discussion. Like at so many Select Board meetings, the head of our Town Road Crew, Keith Mason, gave a lengthy description of the state of our road budget, which is likely to be woefully short this year. He explained that we are not yet halfway through the fiscal year, yet already 65% through our annual allotted road crew funds. In fact there were folks in attendance expressly to complain that their road is virtually impassable. (I also spoke to people who wanted to attend the meeting last night but could not because their road is currently impassable.)

What shocks me is that our Road Crew is put in an impossible position of having to fix and maintain our roads during a difficult winter, without the sufficient resources to do so. We are talking here about maintaining the infrastructure of our town, without which our residents cannot get to work, cannot get to the grocery store, cannot function.

We are a town that can’t afford to keep all its roads open, yet we are proposing to spend over a quarter of a million dollars to create handicapped access to a building that already has ADA compliant handicapped access. To access a basement meeting room when we already have a lovely historic auditorium across the street in the Town Hall with a handicapped accessible elevator. 

If it were free? Maybe. But we all know it won’t be free.


Here are the comments I read last night at the Pawlet Select Board Meeting:

As a longtime fan of the Pawlet Library and as a founding member of the Pawlet Projects Committee, which raised over $250,000 to convert the schoolhouse into the library’s new home back in 2002, as well as a former Library Board member, I would respectfully like to submit the following comment.

For the last year I’ve been attending Select Board meetings and Library Board meetings in hopes of having a complete understanding of the proposed Library elevator project, but in that time I have yet to hear a compelling argument for it.

The first argument I heard is that the Select Board wants this project, and so the library should go along with it in order to maintain a good relationship with the Select Board. But the Select Board seems far from united in their feelings about this proposal. Even if they were unanimous, this by itself would not justify spending $300,000 on a project, if that project does not make sense.

The second argument that I have heard is that it would resolve the problem that falling ice and snow presents for the existing handicapped access ramp. However, for a fraction of the cost of this proposed elevator, the town could add either snow guards or a ramp roof to resolve this.

The third argument I have heard is that the library has a new Strategic Plan that calls for providing places “for people to gather for social activities and community discussions.” But the strategic plan does not call for an elevator to the basement- it calls for meeting spaces. This is something we already have – not only in the library itself, but in other locations around town that may be used by the library and have been- the gym at the Mettawee Community School, the meeting room in the Pawlet Community Church, and the historic auditorium on the second floor of the Pawlet Town Hall. All of these spaces are handicapped accessible, and one of them, the Town Hall auditorium, is only steps away from the library itself.

The fourth argument I’ve heard, only recently- this morning- is that this is an effort to honor Matt Waite. If that is the case, I’m surprised this hasn’t come up in conversations about the project prior to now. I’m also very surprised that no one contacted Kellie Waite to let her know about this plan. Instead, I was the one to tell her about this project, when I called her to ask her what she thought of it.

We’ve already spent well over $12,000 on a misguided project. Are we really going to propose to the voters of Pawlet that we spend time, energy, and hundreds of thousands of dollars on a project that no one seems to love, and no one has asked for?— When there are so many other things Pawlet very much needs? We do need new library front steps. We do need a new town garage. As one Select Board member put it, this proposal seems like using a hand grenade to kill a housefly. It is a bad, heavy-handed solution to a nonexistent problem. It does not belong on the ballot.

Important Meeting Monday in Pawlet


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On this Monday, December 30th at 7 PM there will be a very important Select Board meeting at the Town Hall. In it, they are going to consider placing on the March Town ballot what is being called the Library Lift Expansion: a plan for a $300,000 elevator to a small basement room.

It is bad, expensive idea that no one had asked for and no one really likes.

After living in Pawlet for some time now, if I can say one thing about our community it is this: we are thoughtful and frugal. When it came time to raise money to turn the former three-room-schoolhouse into the new library years ago, the Pawlet Projects Committee did that fundraising with no financial assistance from the town. More recently, debates about the school merger’s effects on taxpayers were heated and prolonged- as befitted such an important issue.

I regularly attend town Select Board meetings and I think everyone can agree that they consider every issue with an eye to cost- cost to the taxpayers, cost to our community. At these meetings there is much talk about where the sand for this season’s roads will come from, and how to make sure folks in West Pawlet can afford their water treatment plant bills.

Clearly, there are many things Pawlet needs. For my part, if we are considering big projects, I’m curious why we aren’t talking more about a new town garage, something the town has reportedly been in desperate need of since I moved here two decades ago, and probably longer. If we are going to take a bond out to improve our town, I can’t think of any single project that would more positively affect the lives of its residents.

But instead, the Select Board are considering putting on the ballot an uncharacteristically wasteful proposal, an unnecessary addition to the library that happens to cost more, incidentally, than the entire building renovation did in 2001.

My commentary on this proposal has been published in VTDigger and the Manchester Journal as well as here on, and interestingly, my article is the only place you’ll find any information about the “Library Lift Expansion.” Which is weird, don’t you think? The Library Board is proposing to spend $300,000 of taxpayer dollars, but they haven’t bothered to put the specifics on their website?

That just doesn’t sound like Pawlet to me. I hope you’ll join me at the Monday Select Board meeting at 7PM to oppose this wasteful boondoggle of a plan… the Elevator to Nowhere.