Town May Restore Boulder Knoll Barn

Town Explores Options To Improve Boulder Knoll

January 22, 2010 
Josh Morgan, The Cheshire Herald

While the barn at Boulder Knoll continues to sit in a state of disrepair, Town officials are looking into funding opportunities that could eventually revitalize the historic structure.

For many years, the old barn has sat dormant on the property commonly referred to as Boulder Knoll. The topic of restoring the barn has been on the table for a few years, but funding has always been a concern and there has never been a firm cost established for the work. Recently, Town officials have identified two different grants that could assist in the eventual rehabilitation of the barn.
“We did a walkthrough a few years ago and there was no quick fix,” explained Town Planner William Voelker. “We want to take a look at it more specifically and some experts could give us a handle on the work and determine more accurate costs.”

Those experts could be hired partially through the state’s Survey and Planning Grant program, which could provide up to $20,000 in funding. The grant requires the Town to match the funds and, by discounting staff salary time, the Town could look at a cost of $8,500 to study the barn. Voelker stated that the grant’s director explained that $20,000 usually covers the cost of initial pre-development studies, such as the one the Town would like to perform on the barn. Voelker said he would apply for the grant, if that was a course of action the Town Council wanted to take.

Town Manager Michael Milone explained that the barn has never been used since the Town acquired it more than a decade ago. The barn dates back to the early 1900s and was used as part of a dairy operation until the early 1990s, before the property was sold. Milone said the grant could help assess the barn and determine what the options are moving forward, at little to no cost to the Town.
“It’s not often we can get a grant for an assessment like this,” Milone said. “Usually, we have to use the Capital Planning account through the Capital Budget. It’s not too frequent to find grant money during the assessment phase.”

A second grant program could also avail itself to the Town, to help with the restoration of the barn. After completing a study of it, a more definitive number to complete the work would be established. If the opportunity presents itself, officials could pursue the Capital Improvement Grant: Historic Restoration Fund that could provide funding for the improvements to the barn. The grant ranges from $5,000 upwards to $200,000, but also requires a match from the Town, which could be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“It needs major work and a substantial amount of money,” Voelker said.

In addition to the barn, invasive plants have been identified as growing on the property and there are plans to remove those species this year. Plants, such as autumn olive and multiflora rose, are overgrown on the property and are considered a nuisance because they stunt native vegetation growth.

“We’ll talk to the Planning Committee about the invasive plants,” Milone said. “It will go through Committee and they will decide on the best way to proceed.”

Milone pointed out that $20,000 was allocated in the budget for the invasive species removal, but a preferable method would be to use volunteers. However, he was unsure what type of machinery or expertise would be required, which would limit what volunteers could accomplish at Boulder Knoll. He hoped the Planning Committee would be able to discuss the matter soon, as the best time to attack the invasive plants is in the winter.

“We don’t want this to take too long,” Milone said. “The best time to knock down the invasive plants is to get it while it is not growing rapidly. We need to get it while it’s manageable and not out of control.”

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