The Westport Island Board of Selectmen held a workshop meeting May 6 with several town committees to discuss the future use of the Wright House currently owned by the town.
The town budget committee presented a citizens’ petition to sell the house. The question will be decided on a referendum vote June, 28. However, the selectmen, members of the history committee, human resource committee, Wright committee, and others have different ideas, and those ideas do not include selling the house.
“There are multiple uses for the building,” Mary Ellen Barnes, Chairman of the Westport Island History Committee said.
Suggested uses for the building include a place for the town’s historical items to be displayed, a permanent home for the Westport Island food pantry; a committee meeting place, and a place to store town records.
Town Hall Committee Chairman Bill Cooney told the group that currently the town’s historical items are stored in boxes at the town hall in closets.
“That point is the most beautiful spot on the island,” Wright Committee Chairman Art Ballard said. “It now belongs to the people. It would be wrong to take that from them.”
“Towns that owned waterfront property do not sell it,” Planning Board Chairman Ruth Nelson said. “It is a precious commodity.”
Wright Committee member John Nelson, spoke of the legacy of the Wright House, and its former owners, Adrian and Mary Wright. “A man that fought in World War II, as a gunner, came back to Westport Island and make his home on that point, and became a worm digger. He encouraged the worm diggers and other fishermen to use his property to access the water. He knew how important it was for those people to have access to the water. He was the happiest of men,” Nelson said.
Ballard pointed out a new owner of the house may not feel the same; to have the wormers and fishermen so close to their home.
Budget committee member Dennis Dunbar said the reason the budget committee had recommended selling the house was to pay the $220,000 still owed on the property to relieve the tax payers of the debt. “Also there had been no compelling ideas for the use of the house, up to this point,” he said.
“If it is a matter of value, I believe the memory and the legacy of Adrian Wright is more valuable than the $220,000,” Nelson said, adding that according to a survey done in 2007, 70 percent of the residents wanted to retain ownership of the house.
The selectmen asked for and received volunteers to put together a newsletter informing the voters on the benefits to the town in maintaining ownership of the Wright house.
There will be a public hearing, Thursday, May 16, at 7 p.m., at the Westport Island Town Hall to discuss the citizens’ petition to sell the Wright house. It is unclear at this time if another article will be on the town meeting warrant as an alternative to selling the house.
The voters approved the purchase of the Wright property at their 2004 town meeting for a sale price of $567,000. The town received a grant of $187,000 from Land for Maine Future that was put toward the purchase price of the property.