Old school, new plans: Group finalizes building buy
by Mike Eldred
Oct 06, 2017 | 2867 views | 0 0 comments | 125 125 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This memorial to 1st Lt. Mark Dooley was dedicated during the annual run in his memory. It stands outside the old high school in Wilmington. Dooley was killed in Iraq in 2005 while leading a platoon on a mission.
This memorial to 1st Lt. Mark Dooley was dedicated during the annual run in his memory. It stands outside the old high school in Wilmington. Dooley was killed in Iraq in 2005 while leading a platoon on a mission.
WILMINGTON- “We own a school,” says Old School Enrichment Council Chair Steve Goldfarb. After several years of planning, and nearly a year of negotiations with the Wilmington School Board, OSEC became the official owners of the former Twin Valley High School Building at about 5:30 Tuesday evening.

Goldfarb says OSEC “celebrated” their purchase with a walk-through of the building with Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Business Manager Karen Atwood.

The deal came with funding, including $20,000 in escrow for remediation of an underground oil tank, and a $60,000 lease payment from Twin Valley School District for use of the gymnasium and other facilities. Goldfarb says OSEC is aggressively tackling issues at the building. “Nido’s is already there, putting in new oil tanks and getting them plumbed in, then we can get the old (underground) tanks out in the next two or three weeks.” Part of the $20,000 held in escrow is earmarked for any environmental cleanup necessary after the removal of the tanks.

The next priority will be to address the building’s lower entrance, and the roof over the entryway and library. The leaky roof had been a source of frustration for school officials for years, but OSEC members hope to redesign the roof to eliminate some of the problems. The current entryway will be replaced with an ADA-compliant door system. “We’re hoping to have the new roof and entry done by the time snow flies,” Goldfarb says.

The roof project will be accomplished using funds from Wilmington’s 1% local option tax approved at this week’s meeting, as well as funding the group already has on hand. “We had donations from the Wilmington Fund’s fundraiser at the Kilmurray Farm a couple of summers ago, the Boyd Family Farm’s Farm to Table dinner this summer, and we’ve been quietly raising money with our ‘brick sale,’” Goldfarb says.

The $60,000 received from the school, as well as lease payments from WSSU, will be used for operating costs. Goldfarb says one of OSEC’s priorities will be to make sure WSSU, a key long-term tenant, is happy in their space. “Or we’ll move them to a better space if that’s what they’d like.”

OSEC also plans to work with Daniel Kasnitz, of Brattleboro, to develop the community center as an arts space. Kasnitz and OSEC announced their collaboration last year, with plans for studio space for a range of arts. The vision also includes use of the center’s common areas as “gallery space,” where artists can display their artwork for sale. Goldfarb says the scope of the collaboration isn’t set in stone yet, and it may mean a number of individual studios, or a large studio space to be shared by several artists – or both. He says the former Student Network studio will likely be used as a video and sound studio. “We’re actively pursuing a number of avenues to get artists in there, and to get bigger anchor tenants in there.”

Goldfarb says OSEC doesn’t have other tenants committed yet. “We’ve talked about community support groups, but one of the questions is, who does it fall under? Is that something the town sponsors, the school, or a nonprofit organization? Our goal is to be landlords and provide space for programs, we’re not planning to run programs. A fitness center seems to be on everyone’s wish list, so what we need is someone who wants to put a fitness center in there.”

But OSEC does hope to attract some larger “anchor” tenants. Goldfarb says the group remains open to a partnership with the town to move the town office to the building and hopes the building will serve as the town’s emergency shelter again. He says the group has even discussed approaching the US Postal Service to rent space in the bulding. “They need a new home with more space and better parking,” Goldfarb says. “They’re getting inundated with package deliveries.”

For future operating and capital funding, Goldfarb says OSEC will search for donations, grants, and sponsorships. OSEC member Cindy Hayford is an experienced grant writer, and Goldfarb says Wilmington Works project manager Meg Staloff has offered her skills as a grant writer. The group will send Wilmington and Twin Valley alumni a letter seeking donations. And with the recent placement of a memorial marker to 1st Lt. Mark Dooley on the property, the annual 1st Lt. Mark Dooley 5K Race has established a permanent relationship with the old school. Goldfarb says the organization has already donated to OSEC and will continue to do so. “They’d like to have Mark Dooley’s name on a wing or a room, or some other part of the building. We’ll try to figure out a plan for that.”

OSEC has its roots in a study conducted in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene that identified a community center as a top priority by local residents. As part of the process, a volunteer community center committee was created, co-chaired by Goldfarb and Cammie Swanson. When the former high school became the preferred location for a community center, the committee morphed into the “Old School Enrichment Center committee,” with Goldfarb and Swanson still at the helm. About a year ago, the group changed their name to the Old School Enrichment Council.

During their long run as a community center without a community center, people from around the Deerfield Valley offered to help with various projects or tasks. Now that the group has a building, Goldfarb says they’re planning to hold a volunteer open house next month. “We’ve had so many people ask how they can help over the last five years. Now that we own it, we’ll be calling on people for that help.”
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