Athol’s Downtown Vitality Committee offers ‘gift’ to town

  • Athol Downtown Vitality Committee Chairman Herb Wheeler and committee member Ann Willhite tell a recent meeting of the Select Board that the committee has plans to spruce up a portion of Athol’s retail core – at no cost to the community. Photo/Greg Vine

  • The top deck of the Athol Municipal Parking Lot, accessed from South Street. Photo/Deborrah Porter

  • The bottom deck of the Athol Municipal Parking Lot, accessed from Exchange street and Main streets. Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/20/2019 4:10:16 PM

ATHOL – Representatives of the Downtown Vitality Committee appeared before a recent meeting of Athol Selectboard with a request for board members to consider.

“We’re here this evening,” said ADVC Chairman Herb Wheeler, “to see if you guys will accept a gift that (committee member) Ann (Willhite) has been working very hard on to bring forward to you.”

“For people who don’t know what the Downtown Vitality Committee is, it’s a collection of elected officials, concerned citizens, and business owners. We were formed by the town a couple of years back and our mission is to keep the downtown area vibrant. We understand everybody’s excited about the uptown Quabbin area, Market Basket, however you want to define it. But downtown has always been a vital part of the community.”

“The feeling of some our members,” Wheeler continued, “is that we don’t want to lose the downtown. If we lose the downtown, we lose the heart of our town.”

Wheeler said one of the goals the committee has been working toward is the installation of new lighting underneath the downtown parking garage. He said the electrical system, as well as the plumbing, is the original system installed when the building went up in the 1980s.

“Tonight,” Wheeler revealed, “our gift to you is that we would like to offer the painting of the structure of the garage; the columns and the back wall. As you know, it’s been filled with graffiti in the past. We have a patchwork of different colors. We would like to make it uniform.”

“With Ann’s effort, we have been able to get Sherwin Williams to donate well over $1,000’ worth of materials; the primer, the paint. And Ann has another business owner who is willing to donate the manpower to actually do the work,” Wheeler explained. “What we need from you is to accept this gift so we can get it power-washed by the appropriate department, or departments.”

“I think what we’ll do,” said Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, “is we’ll have the DPW assist with sweeping the garage, and I know the Fire Department can use a big hose and give it a good wash down. With the board’s support, we’ll expect the DPW to do that work and get it cleaned up.”

Selectboard Chairwoman Rebecca Bialecki told Wheeler and Willhite, “We really appreciate all of your efforts. It’s really great to have people working to make an impact on the downtown area.”

Willhite told the board that in her discussions with Rob MacDonnell, the Athol Sherwin Williams store manager, “He strongly recommends that once it’s properly primed and painted, there is a product that he has, which is clear, that is applied over the paint and primer. In the case of more graffiti – and chances are pretty good it will be at some point – it just washes off; you just spray it with a hose and it washes off. I think it would crazy not to take that extra step.”

If necessary, said Willhite, the Downtown Vitality Committee would mount a fundraising campaign to pay for the coating.

“If there is an entity out there – be it a business or a private citizen – who would like to donate to that cause, I’d like them to step forward and contact either Ann herself, or Shaun (Suhoski), and we would arrange to have it taken care of.”

Willhite also said she would get an estimate on the cost of the product.

The board’s vote to accept the Downtown Vitality Committee’s gift was unanimous.

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