Wilmington residents start petition for community center


WILMINGTON >> A petition in support of turning the former Twin Valley High School into a community center is going around the internet.

"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," the document stated. "This work would include acquiring reasonable, accurate estimates for removal of the old section and necessary upgrades for occupancy without a complete gut renovation."

The high school was closed for education after Wilmington and Whitingham consolidated schools. A facility in Whitingham was renovated for middle and high school classes, and an elementary school in Wilmington was upgraded to accommodate both districts' students.

A vote expected to take place in the fall could bring the two districts together in an effort to comply with Act 46, the law mandating school district mergers statewide. Maintenance of the old school is currently costing both towns' taxpayers money. Both districts have their own boards and a Twin Valley board.

Two separate studies were previously completed by Bread Loaf Corporation and Stevens & Associates. The latter group most recently submitted a plan that would cost about $4.5 million and move many of the town departments to the site. In that scenario, room would be leftover for other tenants. Bread Loaf's $1.4 million estimate looked primarily at creating a community center.

Some residents believe there's a cheaper path that would achieve the goal of housing a community center on the property.

"Overwhelmingly, Wilmington residents have expressed an interest in having a community center in town, contingent on a reasonable cost to the taxpayers," the petition said. "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."

The petition was signed by two residents on Wednesday. The website, ipetitions.com/petition/community-center-petition, features a "highlight" saying the petition went live on Thursday.

Six signatures were showing as of 9:15 p.m. Thursday.

In a 93-58 vote on July 14, residents gave the School Board authority to sell the building. Concerns about not having an owner in mind were voiced during an informational meeting preceding the vote. A developer who previously showed interest did not participate in a request-for-proposals process to find a qualified buyer, according to School Board officials.

Funding has been seen as the main challenge during talks at Select Board meetings, although the Select Board was never formally asked to commit to the community center.

Before the vote was held, the Select Board received a petition with 192 signatures from residents urging the school district to sell the building. That did not trigger the vote. It had already been scheduled.

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


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