By Louise and Tom Johnson
The Windham Meeting House – a beautiful, historic building dating from 1802 – is jointly owned by the Town of Windham and the UCC Church. For various reasons, the Church members have decided that they can no longer support their share of ownership. They have agreed to turn over their portion to the Town for a nominal amount. A Transition Committee of volunteers has been formed by the Select Board to determine the feasibility of sole ownership and the legal aspects of transfer. According to the Town attorney, there are no legal obstacles to the Town acquiring the part of the building that it doesn’t already own. The consensus of the Committee is that the Town should proceed with acquisition. The Meeting House is a center for many Town activities and a part of the heritage of the Town that should remain in public ownership.
Once full ownership is acquired, the Town would be responsible for the full cost of upkeep and operation. How will this affect taxpayers? Using round numbers, the annual operating expenses are about $16,000, of which the Town already pays about $10,000. If the remaining $6,000 were to come from taxes, this would result in an increase of $0.05 per thousand dollars valuation. For example, a property valued at $200,000 would see a tax increase of $10. Maintenance of the structure of the building would continue to be supported by The Friends of the Meeting House, which is reorganizing to raise funds for that purpose. (See related article elsewhere.)
After acquisition, a committee would be formed to handle ongoing operations and to promote the use of the building to generate income. Ideas for a fee structure and possible uses are being discussed. There appear to be many possible uses and it seems likely that enough revenue could be generated to completely offset the additional $6,000 expense to the Town.
Comments, ideas and suggestions are welcome. Please respond in writing at the Town Office or on the Town web site, www.townofwindhamvt.com.