Ownership of old Wilmington school addressed

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WILMINGTON >> A petition urging the town not to take over ownership of the old Twin Valley High School arrived on the Select Board's desk shortly after a vote was warned to address the vacant building currently owned by the Wilmington School District.

"Shall the voters authorize the Wilmington Board of School Directors to sell the former Twin Valley High School, under such terms as they determine to be in the best interest of the Wilmington Town School District?" the article stated.

The vote will be conducted via Australian ballot on July 14. Polling will take place in the Twin Valley Elementary School music room from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Absentee ballots can be picked up now at the Town Clerk's Office.

The petition came in after the completion of a report by Stevens & Associates. The town hired the firm to look at the feasibility of owning and maintaining the building. But the town was never asked about taking over as owner by the Wilmington or Twin Valley school boards.

The Twin Valley board is made up of members from the Wilmington and Whitingham school boards since the towns' schools were consolidated. High school and middle school students attend classes in a facility in Whitingham. The Twin Valley Elementary School is in Wilmington. The only occupant of the old high school is the Windham Southwest Supervisory. Otherwise, the building has been vacant for about two years.

"We're waiting on this bidding that they're doing, looking for this private investor," said Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald at a meeting Wednesday, referring to a prospect mentioned by School Board member Phil Taylor at previous meetings.

Former school board member Dennis Richter had asked for the Select Board's feelings on the old school, saying he supported the town taking over ownership of the building. A request for proposals seeking interested and qualified buyers has been issued by the Wilmington School Board.

Resident Steve Butler walked into the meeting as board members talked about having seen the petition. Butler had started the petition and handed it over to the board.

Butler said he began getting people to sign it after reading about the Stevens study and seeing estimated costs. The approximately $5.4 million figure involved turning the old school into a community center that also would house municipal offices, the police department and several tenants.

But Butler said he was not aware the School Board was hoping to sell the building to a private developer at the time he created the petition.

"I said, 'We got to sell it.' We can't let the townspeople become obligated to that kind of money," Butler told the Select Board. "I got 192 signatures in less than two weeks."

The warned vote, Select Board member Susie Haughwout said, was "pretty much" what petitioners asked for.

"They were supporting sale and liability to some entity," she said.

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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