Money for Whitney Hall on Royalston capital planning priority list

  • Whitney Hall in Royalston's South Village was constructed in 1905. It served as a school and event venue for many years. Currently, several municipal offices are located on the first floor, while the second floor is used for storage. Staff photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 4/27/2022 2:32:37 PM
Modified: 4/27/2022 2:31:08 PM

ROYALSTON — At the Royalston Selectboard meeting on Tuesday, a discussion about the need for funding repairs to Whitney Hall arose after board Chair Deb D’Amico read from a letter from Royalston South Village Revitalization Committee (RSVRC) member Mark Shoul. Shoul was looking for confirmation that “money for Whitney Hall preservation” will be included as an article on the warrant for the June 11 Annual Town Meeting, “and to get a sense of how much money that will be.”

Shoul also wanted to know if any funding for Whitney Hall would be paired with any monies sought for upgrades to the former Raymond School, where town officials hope to relocate a number of municipal offices.

“First of all,” D’Amico replied, “there is no plan to pair any funding for Raymond and Whitney together. That has never been our intent. In fact, even as we worked with the USDA to get money for Raymond, we asked could we pair work on Whitney, and they said you can’t do that. It has to be one or the other.”

D’Amico then added that a request for “substantial funds” for Whitney Hall had been forwarded to the town’s Capital Planning Committee, as well as the Selectboard.

“The Capital Planning Committee,” D’Amico continued, reading from a document provided by Capital Planning Committee Chair Phil Rabinowitz, “is recommending — it’s number two on their list of priorities — Whitney Hall painting and repairs. This is on the Capital Development Plan for FY23.

“The building is in dire need of buttoning up with paint, window repair, and other work to keep it from rotting out. There is, as yet, no resolution on what to do with (the building) but what whatever the final decision, it will require a functioning building.

“The amount requested,” D’Amico continued reading, “along with $10,000 available from a 2016 Annual Town Meeting, will cover — but is not limited to — scraping, repair, re-nailing, or replacement of clapboards, trim, or structural components, removal of the ramp, priming and two coats of paint from the DPW request. And it’s a total of $50,000.”

“That’s the recommendation of the Capital Planning Committee,” said board member Chris Long. “The Selectboard now has to look at our overall budget and that Capital Plan report and determined how we’re going to accommodate it. That is not a given yet.”

“Our conundrum, as always,” D’Amico responded, “is can the budget support and how do we prioritize?”

She then added that Capital Planning Committee had provided the Selectboard a list of eight priority spending requests and reiterated that money for Whitney Hall was number two on that list.

“Well, we appreciate it a lot,” said Rabinowitz. “It’s clear that it’s a priority. The people love the building, and we really do appreciate that.”

D’Amico added that she recently explored the possibility of landing state grant funding to explore the possible future of Whitney Hall via the state’s One Stop for Growth website. She explained that towns are encouraged to explain what major local projects might benefit from grant monies.

In initial communication with the state program, D’Amico said, “We seek funding for a solid plan for the future of this building. A possible focus would be a market study to determine the commercial viability for this building; how might we market this building to attract entrepreneurs to our town?

“So, with the blessing of this board, I’ll put in a formal proposal. They’re due in early June. The categories are less than $100,000, then it goes up from there. I said it would be less than $100,000, I would imagine.

D’Amico said she wanted to assure members of the RSVRC and other residents that the Selectboard had not forgotten about Whitney Hall or the South Village.

Whitney Hall was constructed in 1905 and served over the years as a school and venue for community events. Town offices have occupied the building for about the past three decades and in that time the building has fallen into disrepair. It was estimated about three years ago that it would cost between $3.2 million and $3.4 million to fully renovate Whitney Hall.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.


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