Bethel Recreation’s ice rink behind the Bisbee School will need to be dismantled since residents have voted to appropriate funds for the demolition of the building. Rose Lincoln

BETHEL — About 50 voters turned out at the Gem Theatre March 7 to vote for two warrants at a Special Town Meeting.

The first was to see if the Town would appropriate $64,500 from its undesignated funds balance for demolition of the Ethel Bisbee School. Both the select board and budget committee recommended approval.

With paper ballots in raised hands, voters overwhelmingly approved the article with just eight people of the 50, voting no.

Before the vote was taken several voters approached the microphone to speak.

“There are a lot neighbors to the Ethel Bisbee School … we are all really concerned that we have a voice going forward… we feel there is a lack of engagement,” said a resident.

Moderator Steve Wight clarified, “the town owns the property and the town will continue to own the property.”


Bisbee School neighbor, Katie Getchell expressed her support of the appropriation and said she would continue to work with the town manager and the select board.

Resident Laura Allen, was concerned about the asbestos mitigation. Select board chair, Lloyd Sweetser said $13,000 was spent last week for the mitigation.

Both Allen and Wade Cavanaugh asked what the plan going forward would be. Sweetser and Select Board Member Pat McCartney, said the current issue was for safety. Swain and Kelley said they supported demolition, as well.

“I want an inclusive process,” said Kelley.

“I feel whatever we do decide will have to go to Town Meeting anyway for the whole town to decide upon what that property will be used for in the future,” said Sweetser

Cavanaugh said he and his wife, Beth, offered the town $60,000 for the property to redevelop it in 2017. “To me it fell like we were completely hoodwinked through the entire process. So that’s why I’m asking has there been a formal request for proposals for the redevelopment of that property? We have acute housing needs in this area. We have acute needs for businesses to grow in this area. Have we put it out to private developers to put that property to it’s best use?” he asked.


Swain said the town didn’t get the amount of money needed. She said there are many town needs going forward but according to the town’s code, a vote before the town could do anything would be required.

One resident spoke three times during the meeting about a lack of meeting notifications. She said she and her husband and large extended family did not know about the meeting. “It wasn’t sent in our mail… No emails…I got an email from the Gem Theatre because I support the movies… this is a serious question…how do we keep people informed?”

Natalie Andrews, town manager, listed the places they post the meetings: the town website, Facebook, office windows, newspaper, sign-up sheet for emails, and the Chamber of Commerce website. Alerts, she said, have been spotty.

“Is there a reason we can’t send it out by mail?” asked the same resident.

“Cost,” replied Andrews and the labor it would involve. “If they don’t have email I will make arrangements to have it mailed,” she said.

The resident persisted saying, “I feel I am here to represent people that did not get notified. I don’t think it’s fair or legal.”


“It’s definitely legal,” said Andrews.

Amy Halstead asked what the timeline for community engagement will be.

Rachael Guay asked about the timeline because getting the ice rink behind the school dissembled before the ice has melted will be difficult, she said.

Cavanaugh asked (again) why there has been no formal RFP process. “I’d like to hear five answers from five select board members.”

Sweetser said he had not heard of an RFP before the demolition.

McCartney said “it’s a great idea and we have to go forward with it.”


Del Duca said he just came to the board in June and noticed not too many residents come to the meetings. “It’s helpful when citizens do show up cause you have their input and it keeps things in check.” He’d like to work off a plan and be more forward thinking.

Swain said right now we need to get the building down. “We tried to save it, we couldn’t … if we wait and try to do this in six months or even three months it’s going to cost us more,” she said.

Andrews talked about the condition of the building: broken windows, boarded-up windows, drug paraphernalia, and evidence that people have been sleeping inside. ” If someone gets hurt in there, it’s a liability against the town. We don’t want to take that risk,” she said.

Article 3, “to see if the town will re-designate the balance of $23,000 from Capital Improvement Reserve Account #89, Vernon Street Sidewalk to Capital Improvement Reserve Account #96, route 2 Sidewalk” was approved unanimously.

“Vote to adjourn?” asked Scott Cole.

“Vote with your feet.” said Wight as people began to exit the auditorium.


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