LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Former Selectman Urges Voters To Save The Whitefield

Dear Editor:

I would like to thank Ms. Kathleen Remolds and the Wilmington Historical Commission for making their recent presentation to the Wilmington Board of Selectman regarding future use of the Whitefield School. I too agree that the building could be renovated and added on to serve the community as a new Town Hall and Community Center. I also agree that the town could seek out grant funding as we do with many of our projects. I know that the selectmen criticized the report as it did not list the cost to renovate but also need to remind the BOS that they did not authorize any funding to pay for an architect to draft plans and come up with a cost estimate. Interesting enough, the only warrant article proposed by the BOS is to demolish the building rather than offer a choice to spend funds to give the BOS what they criticized Ms. Reynolds for not producing without a budget.

Also, it was mentioned from one BOS member that Wilmington continues to spend a great deal of resources in historical preservation. The specific items that were mentioned were as follows:

  1. The Bond Collection
  2. The West Schoolhouse
  3. Richardson’s Estate
  4. Butters Farm

To clarify – the Bond Collection was a $15,000 one-time expenditure roughly 20 years ago to purchase a collection of historical artifacts that were the collection of Thomas Bond who, many years earlier, tried to sell the collection with a written history of the town for $1,000.00 to a prior Board of Selectmen without success.

The West Schoolhouse was renovated with $103K of state funding (not town appropriated funds) ten years ago, renovated with the assistance of Shawsheen Tech students and is now the office of Veteran Services.

The Richardson Estate is private property and is not owned by the town,

Butter’s Farm was initially purchased by the town for $450K as a vote at Town Meeting and these funds were reimbursed by the State.  The renovation has been done with a lot of grant funds which the historical commission applied for and it is my understanding that the property will be put up for sale in the near future and not owned or maintained by the town.

It was mentioned that we spend considerably more than our neighboring towns in protecting our historical buildings. I am not sure of the figures but I do know that Tewksbury Town Hall, a building older than the Whitefield School, is going through a rehabilitation program to renovate it to the needs of a modern town hall. In Reading, another neighboring town, they are in process of renovating and adding on to the Reading Library, the former elementary school built in 1894 using partial funding of a $5.1M grant.

We have an opportunity to not only preserve a building which has been standing for over 100 years in our town but has the opportunity to become a community center, a place where all residents can enjoy and get away from their electronic devices and have civic meetings and gatherings. Currently we rely heavily on our churches to provide scarce meeting space for programs such as scouting and social networking.  Some of this space could be used as an annex to the Senior Center for programs. We have an opportunity to create a new, exciting place for our town and possibilities that grant funding could pay for a great deal of it. I vote we ask the town for funds to provide a proper plan for the rehabilitation of the building and give our community another useful building for our residents.

Frank West

Former Wilmington Selectman

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