To the Editor:

I want to voice my support of the selectmen for exploring the use of the Ethel Bisbee School (EBS) for a town multi-use facility. This property is ideally situated in the center of town, but not on often busy Main Street, to facilitate virtually any imaginable town activity. Furthermore, the acreage there (1.5 according to the tax maps) would provide an area sufficient for any needed redevelopment plus parking. While I greatly appreciate Stan Howe’s contribution to this town, I do not agree with his support of redevelopment of the Cole Block. First, parking is NOT adequate, especially for the elderly, and I’m getting to that point faster than I would like. There might be 20 parking spaces behind the Block and maybe another 20 on Main Street within say 100 feet of the Town Office. These spaces also serve other needs for upper Main Street, so at any one time, many of these spots are not available. Furthermore, a large gathering would have to be accommodated upstairs in Odeon Hall. I can’t imagine what the cost would be to make that second floor space (or is it the third – I’ve only been up there once for a sister’s dance recital years ago) ADA compliant AND meet applicable safety codes.

It is true that much of the EBS is also a kind of second story (really only a half story above the first) which would create obstacles similar to Odeon Hall. However, these challenges would be nowhere near as significant, given the half story and the lack of space restrictions to create ingress/egress to the building. Furthermore, there is ample first floor space (as I recall, the old kindergarten and first grade rooms) to create a community meeting space sufficient for any foreseeable gathering. The “second” floor – old second and third grades – would provide ample space, much larger than the existing town office, for all general town departments and daily functions. The old lunch room in the basement could be used for storage for most any imaginable town need.

On a personal note, this building is historic and an important part of many of our pasts. I went to the school, as did both of my parents. In fact, I was told we had the same kindergarten teacher – Ethel Bisbee, of course. My grandmother, Lillian Smith, was the head cook when I was there. She later moved to Crescent Park School for whom that lunch room is dedicated. Almost seems a crime to let this historic structure continue to decay. All space would need to be renovated, of course, but according to the recent Accu-Pro Inspections report, this building is largely structurally sound. Let’s turn EBS into a community asset and free up the Cole Block to further enhance upper Main Street.

Mark Hutchins

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