Letter: Old school should become a community center

Old school should become a community center

Editor of the Reformer:

The vote on Thursday, July 14, gave the Wilmington School Board permission to sell the old high school building. But when? And to whom?

A couple of people were interested buyers but one dropped out and the other's proposal would have cost us a great deal of money. It could sit idle for months or even years while a buyer is sought and all the while we will still pay expenses.

There has always been strong wide-spread support for a community center. A community center means different things to different people — everyone has a favorite component — but it does mean that Wilmington and surrounding towns would have additional services and benefits for a range of ages right in the middle of the Village.

There have been a couple of studies, one of which gives a high price tag to change the building into a "Cadillac" of buildings. But, the OSEC (Old School Enrichment Committee) has als0 worked hard on costs and income and it is very possible that we could afford a Honda or Chevy-type building.

Would it cost us something? Yes, it would but there would be income to offset some of the costs. (And remember that now we are paying and getting nothing in return.) If developed, we would get things that would improve the quality of life for Valley residents. Speaking for myself, I'd love an affordable fitness center. Others might be so thankful for the Gathering Place for aging parents or a gym where kids and young adults can go. Services that are now outside of the Valley would be close at hand. As residents we all pay for things that we may not use but value. I have no children so I've paid for schools but never sent a child there. A successful center would have something for everyone.

Also, we do have 1-percent money and the possibility of grants. One of purpose of 1-percent money is community projects and I can think of no better use that converting the old school into a community asset.

To keep the idea of a community center alive a group of residents are circulating a petition. It states: We the undersigned voters of the Town of Wilmington, hereby petition the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Wilmington to work with the Wilmington School Board to continue to explore options for a Community Center at the former Twin Valley/Wilmington High School building. This work would include acquiring reasonable, accurate estimates for removal of the old section and necessary upgrades for occupancy without a complete gut renovation. Overwhelmingly, Wilmington residents have expressed an interest in having a Community Center in town, contingent on a reasonable cost to the taxpayers. We believe the decision as to whether the town should fund the operations and capital improvements of the facility should be made by the taxpayers through a town vote.

If you agree and would like to sign it there are copies at Pettee Memorial Library, the chamber office, Swan Electric and Twin Valley Creations. We will also be at Town events over the next few weeks. Or give me a call at 802-464-5277 and I will get one to you. If you would like to help collect signatures we'd love the help.

Can we pull this off and have a reasonably priced affordable center? I don't know. What I do know that this is our best chance to enhance our lives, enliven the Village and keep a valuable property under our control. We need to try. We have residents who have the expertise and energy but we need the Selectboard and School Board to also give their support.

Nicki Steel, Wilmington, July 26


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