No Progress on Agreement with Sandown Historical Society

SANDOWN – The board of selectmen once again met with the historical society to iron out an agreement for use of the town-owned Train Depot Museum, and once again the two groups made little progress on what both have agreed only needs to be a basic outline of rights and responsibilities.

At the selectmen’s Monday, Feb. 3 meeting, it was unclear which document – one created by the selectmen or one created by the society – was being reviewed. It was noted that progress toward a single document had not been made.

The two groups have met numerous times in 2013, with little progress made on this issue.

While the historical society notes in its document that they want to work closely with the selectmen or their office, and to be present whenever the depot is being discussed, selectmen and town administrator Lynn Blaisdell noted that such isn’t always practical.

And while at one point in the meeting it seemed as though both sides were going to move forward with the society’s document, Blaisdell pointed out that nowhere in that document is it explained that the depot is a town-owned building and as such is under the jurisdiction of the selectmen.

Blaisdell argued that the selectmen’s document is clearer, as it lists the state law that governs the selectmen’s ability to regulate use and maintenance on the building. She questioned why both parties would have to be present for the selectmen to make decisions on a town-owned building.

“I think it needs to be declared that the town owns this building; we regulate the use of this building and maintenance that happens to the building,” said Blaisdell. “Nowhere in here (the society’s document) is it firmed up.”

In response, society president Bruce Robinson spoke about code violations in the building and said the selectmen ought not to take such a firm stance on ownership. Blaisdell and selectman Hans Nicolaisen questioned Robinson’s point but didn’t get very far.

”I’m a professional in the electrical business. I’d come right back at you and say, ‘These are the code violations.’ What I’m driving at here is we need to take maybe small steps and say, ‘What if?’ Do you get what I’m driving at?” asked Robinson.

“What does the ownership of our building have to do with that?” asked Blaisdell.

While Robinson stated that everyone was working in a gray area on the issue, Blaisdell and Nicolaisen noted that the selectmen weren’t operating in any gray area as the law was very clear on the matter.

Robinson argued that if the selectmen take a firm stance of ownership, they may need to rectify the code violations. Blaisdell made it clear that all were aware of the code violations and this work with the society was no different than work already undertaken and cleared up with other town buildings. She noted that many hours had been spent with this work on every other town-owned building and she wondered when all the players would come to the table ready to work.

A work session was suggested, to go paragraph by paragraph.

Society member Bob Bruder was amenable to that kind of work, noting he was seeking to settle the agreement and move forward. Important to Bruder during the meeting Monday was the fact that the society will be looking to take over utility costs at the building.

Blaisdell sought input on what specific issues the society’s membership had with the selectmen’s written document, but none came up except for when selectmen’s office manager Paula Gulla, who primarily wrote the document, pointed out a structural issue that would need to be dealt with in the letter before it would be serviceable as an official agreement.

Nicolaisen, clearly frustrated with the lack of progress, and getting nowhere with his efforts to get an agreement firmed up, asked all society members to give the selectmen’s office their email addresses so the town could be assured that the information was received by all members and that lines of communication would be opened to make sure there was an actionable document ready for the next meeting.

Robinson said that if the information went out to all members, the society would be diluted. Again Nicolaisen and Blaisdell asked for clarification, but Nicolaisen also noted that there had been communication problems in the past when everything only went through Robinson.

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