To the editor:
The Medomak Valley Community Foundation (of which we are both honored to be board members) received a cruel and unanticipated blow from the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen at its meeting last Tuesday evening.
After spending 18 months and about $7,000 of foundation money developing and working on a proposal to convert the former A.D. Gray School building, located in Waldoboro’s Historic Village District, into a new and much-needed Waldoboro Community Center, the select board voted unanimously (with the possible exception of the chairman) to put the building up for sale for 12 months.
Prior to that motion being made by select board member Butler (seemingly out of the blue), there had been weeks of discussion about letting the town’s residents decide whether to let the foundation create the proposed community center through a warrant article at the annual referendum town meeting coming up in June. This notwithstanding the fact that the foundation had already done a public survey last year, mailed to every household in Waldoboro, and had presented the results of this survey to the select board many months ago, including the fact that respondents to the survey had indicated greater than 80 percent support for our community center proposal.
The foundation had also agreed to the suggestion, initially made by Selectman Butler at the Jan. 9 workshop the select board had arranged to discuss the foundation’s proposal, that a conditional lease agreement, including a mandatory annual performance review contingency clause, might be a reasonable way to go forward while protecting the interests of the town, should the foundation fundraising or rehabilitation effort fail sometime down the road.
It is important to note that the foundation was asking for absolutely no money from Waldoboro taxpayers or from the town budget; just like the extremely successful Miller ballfields project the foundation completed almost 10 years ago, the foundation would be completely and solely responsible for raising all funds require to undertake this project. Only after completion of the project would Waldoboro voters be asked, at a future town meeting, if they would like to take over management and maintenance of the now completed facility.
Throughout the 18 months we’ve been discussing this project with the select board, we felt we were discussing numerous options with them in good faith, including agreeing to a referendum vote on the project in June, even though this would have delayed our fundraising plans by yet another six months.
In reality, we had little choice but to agree, since we could not proceed further with either our fundraising effort or final plans to rehabilitate the long-abandoned school building without the select board’s permission. We were between a rock and a hard place, and had been for months, largely due to the select board’s inability to come to a decision.
The foundation still believes both that the town of Waldoboro needs a community center, as we have proposed, and that working with the residents of the town, we may still have an opportunity to go forward with our vision. Regarding the latter, one option the foundation might explore is a citizen’s petition for a warrant article on the June referendum ballot, basically asking the voters if they are willing to sell the A.D. Gray property to the foundation for, say, $1, and thereby allow the foundation to create a community center thereon, while completely divesting the town of any ongoing financial responsibility for the property.
Although the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen may suffer from a serious lack of vision, in terms of what’s best for Waldoboro, the Medomak Valley Community Foundation, which brought you the Miller ballfields 10 years ago, does not!
Seth Hall, Waldoboro
John Blamey, Waldoboro