Courts & Corrections

Bennington public defender’s office switching locations

Bennington public defender
The public defender’s office in Bennington is moving from this building on Gage Street into temporary quarters on Main Street. The state is looking for a new long-term location. Photo by Jim Therrien/VTDigger

BENNINGTON — The Bennington public defender’s office expects to complete a move into temporary quarters this week to escape a mold issue while the state searches for a new permanent location with more space.

The office is leaving its longtime Gage Street location for temporary quarters in the Main Street building that houses Community College of Vermont and state Department of Health offices.

The space at 324 Main St. will be utilized by the public defender attorneys and staff until a permanent location in the downtown can be secured.

To that end, the state Division of Planning, Policy and Use has posted a legal ad seeking proposals for the lease of about 2,500 feet of space, with a response deadline of Aug. 31.

Vermont Defender General Matthew Valerio said last week that the office has been looking for new quarters because of a need for more space, but discovery of a mold problem in the current building — confirmed through testing about a month ago — led to the decision to find new offices immediately.

The temporary space is being created within the CCV section of the Main Street building.

Valerio said the staff attorneys already are out of the Gage Street building and working remotely at home or elsewhere, pending a move by Thursday into the temporary space. He said phone numbers and other contact information for the office will remain the same during and after the move.

“We have been looking [for new space] for some time,” he said, “but with the mold, we had to get out.”

The office has had an increasing caseload in recent years, he said, which led to a desire for larger quarters.

Christopher Cole, commissioner of the Department of Buildings and General Services, said the move represents “a temporary solution,” pending a lease agreement for another downtown location. That area is a priority, he said, because it provides easier access for many of the defender’s office clients.

Allen Palmer, a property management specialist with the state Division of Planning, Policy and Use, is the contact person for anyone interested in discussing a lease with the state. He said the process differs from a formal bidding process in that the lease details are negotiated after the state has reviewed proposed sites for suitability.

The offices must be handicapped-accessible, he said, and the state is looking for space for up to eight staff members and on-site parking for at least eight to 10 vehicles.

All sites will be considered, according to the legal ad, but preference will be given to sites downtown.

Palmer said officials have talked to some property owners with possible sites, but no decisions will be made until after all proposals are received. He can be reached at 802-828-1424 or [email protected]

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