August 24, 2014

Future of Stimson hall in voters' hands - By Tracy Scheckel

The Gray Town Council held a workshop on August 19 to address a Director of Economic Development, the future of Stimson Hall, and email correspondence.

Gray has been working without a Director of Economic Development (DED) since early May when Beth Humphrey resigned. In June the voters approved an additional part-time position to assist with planning in the community development /planning department. A lengthy discussion took place over the possibility of combining the two sets of duties into one position. Councilors Lewis Mancini and Peter Gellerson were very much in favor of such an option, while Councilor Lynn Gallagher felt that combining the duties might spread the person too thin and compromise the quality of work. Ultimately, the council charged Town Manager Deborah Cabana to assess the skill sets of the Planner, Doug Webster and the newly hired code officer, Tom Reinsborough, and then create a job description for a new employee in the department whose skills will fill in any gaps. 

As it appears that the Monument Square redevelopment initiative is at a complete stall, the council is back to considering what to do with the three municipal properties located on Shaker Road. An RFP for real estate marketing services saw only one response on which the council took no action. The former town hall and post office date back to the 1970s and are vacant and in disrepair, Stimson Hall, the third building on the property is an historic building, once serving the Universalist Church which was subsequently donated to Gray for municipal use. 

For the past few years, Stimson has been leased to Covenant Family Fellowship whose lease will end in early fall, thus the town now needs to address the future of that building. At its last meeting, the Council decided to craft a ballot question for the November elections to see what the public’s wishes are. Cabana presented a draft for discussion at the workshop. Essentially it is a multiple choice question: 1. Approve and expenditure of up to $500,000 for the purpose of renovating Stimson Hall with the Town maintaining possession. 2.Dispose of Stimson Hall, which could include selling and possible demolition of the building.

The consensus of the council was for the manager to fine tune the question making sure to include an estimate of future maintenance costs along with the initial expenditure estimate and bring it forward at the next meeting on September 2 for further discussion. During the discussion, chair Matthew Sturgis expressed his opinion that, due to their proximity and shared parking, the future of the other two buildings on the Shaker Road site hinges on the outcome of the Stimson Hall decision. The other councilor, sans Matt Doughty who was not at the meeting, shared his opinion and plans to wait until after the public weighs in on Stimson at the November election before making any decisions regarding the former town hall and post office.

Regarding email, Sturgis commented, “I just want to reinforce that email correspondence should be at a minimum, and that we (the council) should be conducting our business here at meetings.” He emphasized that he wasn’t implying that been business had conducted via email, but just wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone that emails are public documents should not contain anything that a councilor wouldn’t say at a public meeting.

The next meeting of the Gray Town Council is September 2 at 7 p.m.

No comments:

Post a Comment