“It’s all coming together in February,” said Mary Fellows, a member of the Board of Managers at Edmond Town Hall, referring to the upgrades to the infrastructure of Edmond Town Hall. The cornerstone of the historic building at 45 Main Street was laid in 1929.
“When Edmond Town Hall was built, there was a part-time first selectman and a town clerk — that’s it,” Ms Fellows said in a phone interview December 30.
As the needs of the town grew, so did the number of town officials and departments. In 2009, the offices for town government moved to new quarters, Newtown Municipal Center at Fairfield Hills, leaving the Board of Managers of Edmond Town Hall with the challenge of filling the empty spaces in the aging building.
“There was so much need that came forward,” recalled Ms Fellows, “so far as repurposing the building when the town moved out.” It was clear that three main features would be the means of continuing income to maintain Edmond Town Hall.
“We had the gym, the theater, and the [Alexandria Room]. We needed to honor the original purpose of the building, and our role as Board is to keep up on the care of the building,” she said. “I love this building. It has been the hub for so many things.”
Looking at what would be appropriate for the space, the Board of Managers has leased space to Lathrop School of Dance, an organization with longtime connections to the building; and provided home bases to the Chamber of Commerce, the Borough, and Newtown Parent Connection, as well as continuing the state’s only $2 movie screenings. Many organizations continue to utilize the gym space for parties, dancing, and other activities needing a spacious area.
Still, to maintain the integrity of the building and continue to attract others to the space, the Board identified and moved to upgrade several areas in dire need, Ms Fellows said.
The entire building now has wi-fi capability, making it more usable as meeting space.
The ballroom of the third floor Alexandria Room was restored and repainted, a new kitchen was installed, and a bride and groom suite was put in place behind the stage.
Many of the upgrades have occurred where residents do not see improvements, Ms Fellows said.
“Infrastructure, such as roofing, electrical, and security monitoring are all upgrades people don’t see, but were badly needed. We needed to update the building and keep it safe.
“We’ve known that technology had to change, but the question was always, where would the money come from?” Ms Fellows said.
Newtown resident Hayden Bates has been the catalyst behind the upgrades to technology at Edmond Town Hall, she said. A relative newcomer to the town, Mr Bates recognized the treasure that the building is, and has worked to promote the space through a series of diverse musical concerts, “Live At Edmond Town Hall.”
“Hayden has raised over $10,000 for ETH, through the series,” Ms Fellows said. That money was matched by the Board. “He has raised community interest in preserving and improving the building, and his contacts have allowed the Board of Managers to procure equipment at good prices,” she said, including the purchase of Blu-ray technology and a new movie screen, both of which will make their debuts in early 2014.
“This is the first time an outside person has come in, with no thought of making money himself, just to work for the good of Edmond Town Hall,” Ms Fellows praised the Newtown resident.
Mr Bates has helped with two of the biggest improvements, Ms Fellows said.
“We were able to upgrade the speaker system and the lighting. We have the Blu-ray projectors in hand, and that’s the next step,” she said.
“Don Gamsjager is the tech mastermind behind all of the improvements at the Edmond,” said Mr Bates. “His company, DNR Labs, was awarded the contract for the first few phases — sound, lights, power — and to my knowledge,” Mr Bates said, “he has another few projects in the pipeline.”
DNR Labs began work at Edmond Town Hall in March 2013, said Mr Gamsjager, bringing the electrical service up to date for traveling shows.
“Edmond had a movie theater 1970s system that is only good for movies, and no public address system,” he said.
The professional sound system installed is “the best sound system on the market, DTB Audio Technica,” said Mr Gamsjager, able to provide quality sound for the next 20 to 30 years. It is a system that can be expanded on an “as needed” basis, and is able to accommodate small rock concerts to digital cinema playback,” he said. DNR Labs has also installed a plenum chase way for cables to be discretely and adequately run. “That is something the facility never had before,” Mr Gamsjager said.
Lighting in the audience area has been redone, and one stage of the theatrical stage lighting has been completed. Overhead, the solid white light in the dome has been replaced with an LED color changing skyscape system.
“Everything but the antique sconces is LED now,” Mr Gamsjager said, which draws 80 percent less electrical energy. He stressed that more remained to be done to improve lighting in the theater.
“Phase II of this work is happening in the first quarter of 2014,” said Mr Gamsjager, which includes the installation of the digital cinema projector, a new, retractable screen, and surround sound for movies and performances. He credits two Newtown residents with making it possible for the Board of Managers to go forward with digital movie technology.
“Scott Cicciari put in a lot of hours, and got a digital cinema company to partially donate the cost of the digital cinema projector, which can cost around $60,000,” he said. The remainder, he said, was picked up by Todd Ingersoll.
“This is an absolute knock-your-socks off experience,” he said.
With Blu-ray technology and the new screen, Edmond Town Hall will now be able to do on-screen advertising, an additional source of revenue that also creates community connections, said Ms Fellows.
It costs approximately half a million dollars a year to run Edmond Town Hall, and only $90,000 comes from the town. The rest of the money must come from donations and revenue generated by the building.
“It’s tight,” Ms Fellows admitted. “Our hope is that the restoration and expansion helps Edmond Town Hall to support itself. It doesn’t have to be profitable, just sustainable.”
The Board of Managers welcomes all to tour the building, and invites residents to look for a celebration in the new year, with the showing of the first Blu-ray movie at Edmond Town Hall.
The transition has not been easy, but as the Board moves forward with improvements, the space is becoming more user friendly, said Ms Fellows.
“It’s a big ship to sail, but it is,” she said, “a wonderful ship.”