Study on former Twin Valley high school completed
WILMINGTON — A second study of the former Twin Valley High School is bringing forward a few possibilities for future use, but one could be more financially viable than the others.
The Brattleboro-based Stevens & Associates was hired to look at the building after the Select Board had authorized spending up to $45,000 on a study in September.
"They're not going to make a decision and say, 'Here is the best route for you,'" Town Manager Scott Murphy told the Reformer.
But the group is leaning towards recommending "Alternative D," the last option in a presentation discussed at Wednesday's Select Board meeting, according to Murphy. That would involve demolition of an older section of the building. Town Offices and a couple anchor tenants would be housed in the building currently owned by the Wilmington School District.
Currently, Whitingham is pitching in for building maintenance costs after both towns consolidated schools and decided to close the Wilmington facility. If the town of Wilmington wants to take over ownership of the building, officials say it would have to go to a vote.
Next Wednesday at 6 p.m., another meeting at Town Offices will zero in on the costs associated with "Alternative D." Murphy anticipates the other options will come up again.
"But I think it's a fairly obvious and quick conclusion that most of the other ones are not workable," he said. "We really can't go into the housing business or any commercial/rental business. We're a town. We're a municipality. We don't have the skills nor finances to do that."
Murphy said the $40,000 that the study ended up costing sounds substantial but it's not, adding that a commercial investor would spend at least that much.
There is interest from an outside developer, according to Wilmington School Board member Phil Taylor.
"Depending on what we get back from the numbers and the general direction that the board wants to take, I think we need to consider putting in motion some plans for public hearings in order to expedite some sort of decision on this," he said.
Knowing there is $1.5 million worth of immediate capital-needs work and another $1.5 million for upkeep over the next 10 years, Wilmington School Board Chairman Adam Grinold said he would want to hear a plan for stewardship that residents could support.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Wendy Manners, recalling a planning session in January, said people voiced a "surprising and resounding urgency" for a community center and a town green.
"They want places to come together," she said. "Because our town is congested. It's small. But there's no place for them to meet as a group."
Affordable housing could be a possible avenue for a developer due to the subsidies involved, Bob Stevens told the Select Board.
"Private sector without those subsidies? It's unclear to me you'd want to own it if someone gave it to you," he said.
The Stevens study follows one conducted by Bread Loaf Corporation in 2014. Bread Loaf was hired to look at uses for the school through Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funding. A community center was pegged as the best choice.
In September, the Select Board wanted more data around building condition, cost estimates and potential uses.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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