Selectmen, Historical Society Fail to Reach Agreement

SANDOWN – The board of selectmen has been trying to reach an agreement with the historical society on the use of the Train Depot Museum, and though they had planned to discuss its particulars at their Oct. 21 meeting, members of the historical society took umbrage with the idea of any formal agreement.

Though selectmen took pains to commend the society’s volunteers and the recent improvements they’ve made to the museum, society members focused on what they view as condescension and micromanagement from the board.
The selectmen, noting concern over the building’s status on both the national and state historic registers and other issues like insurance, are seeking to create a document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each party. The town owns the building and 10 feet around the outside and pays upkeep costs, while the society manages the artifacts on the inside. Some proposed changes to the building in recent months, had they been accomplished, would have jeopardized the historic register status, and selectmen want clear boundaries.
A formal lease agreement to govern the relationship was drawn up but it left a bitter taste with selectmen and so they drew up a basic, informal letter instead. They sent the letter to the society asking for input, to make sure both sides were amenable to the ideas expressed in it.
Though that was the reason to bring the society into a meeting, members had not reviewed the document and society president Bruce Robinson refused to say anything about it. There was some confusion about when Robinson had forwarded the document to society members.
Selectmen Brenda Copp and Hans Nicolaisen were concerned that the society membership hadn’t come prepared to discuss the basics of the document.
Robinson said he preferred a gentlemen’s style agreement. He said the town works with handshakes and neighborly actions and did not see why the selectmen were forcing anything more formal.
Robinson said he had brought a document to the board last year outlining needs for the building and implied that this document should be sufficient for the matter at hand, but bemoaned the lack of selectmen participation.
When asked by chair Tom Tombarello for comments on the agreement, Robinson shook his head.
“You’re asking to participate and we’re asking you for participation. This is your opportunity to participate,” said town administrator Lynne Blaisdell to Robinson’s head shaking.
Other members of the society said they think the selectmen are overstepping their bounds when it comes to managing what happens at the depot.
Society treasurer Bob Brouder said he wanted the society to be treated like any other volunteer group in town. Was the garden club forced to ask permission to garden on town land? Did the Old Meetinghouse Historical Association have similar constraints? Brouder asked.
“I can’t see why we can’t continue to function with a gentlemen’s agreement…and let the selectmen know of any problems and ask how you want to address them,” said Brouder.
Nicolaisen said the garden club did ask for permission from the selectmen for certain activities. “You can’t have free reign,” said Nicolaisen, saying the society had not been keeping the selectmen apprised of changes.
Copp added that no group can make changes to town buildings without asking the selectmen.
Brouder asked for specific steps the society had taken that were out of bounds, but the conversation changed direction and no answer was given.
Robinson said he was mad enough to spit nails, but by the end of the meeting the selectmen and most of the society members were joking with each other, led by Tombarello, who sought to ease the tension.
Selectman Terry Treanor said midway through the discussion that to insure any of the society’s valuable artifacts, some sort of agreement had to be established between the owner of the building and the tenant. The conversation circled back to that and other points numerous times and the selectmen eventually decided to continue the conversation to a later meeting.
“You keep going around in a circle. This is what the board wanted you to look at and assess for tonight’s meeting, and where are we going to go with that?” asked Nicolaisen of Robinson.
Tombarello asked the society members to review the document they had been emailed and to come back with concerns and suggestions to be discussed at the meeting.
Copp initially wanted to hammer out the agreement Monday, saying the society already had time to review the document, but eventually conceded to waiting until a later date.

Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments are closed.