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Future of old Town Hall under discussion

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By Katrina Margolis
Hometown Weekly Reporter

There is no denying the historical significant of Walpole’s old Town Hall. As the Reuse Committee met on April 18, there was a unanimous agreement that the Town Hall is a symbol of Walpole, not only because it is in the National Register, but because it is so historical.

However, as the town completes the foundations for a new police station, the Town Hall’s future is in discussion.

Led by Thomas Gregory, the Assistant Town Administrator, the Reuse Committee has met only a handful of times so far to discuss what will happen with the building. Representatives from the Historical Society, as well as citizens of the town, are a part of this committee, offering a diverse range of perspectives on how to move forward.

The group had a tour of the old Town Hall on March 21 in order to get a better idea of the space. The building has three large floors, as well as some historical aspects that cannot be removed. On the bottom floor are three large plaques in memory of the Civil War. Not only are these plaques historically significant, but there is also no safe way to remove them from the walls without cracking the granite. In addition to a tour of the space, at this meeting, a number of documents were provided cataloguing the history of the building, including photographs dating back to 1881. The original plans for the building are lost, but these photos help indicate what the original structure looked like.

While there is no clear, easy solution to what to do with the space, there are a number of proposed paths to go down. One is to renovate the building and return it to municipal use. However, much of the building’s systems are not up to date, which would lead to this being a very expensive project.

Other options include selling the building, or finding someone to engage in a long-term lease. If a lease is long enough - usually around 50 years - whoever is leasing will raise the funding to make the necessary updates.

Variations on these options exist, of course, including leasing out certain floors of the building and maintaining other floors for municipal or non-profit use. One popular suggestion was to give the first floor of the building to the Walpole Historical Society.

This was only the beginning of a series of many meetings. While the Board of Selectman had no date in mind as to when the Committee should have their suggestions in by, the Committee discussed having a plan to present to the town by the spring town meeting of next year.

While this will not be a quick turn-around, the future of this important, historical building is being carefully considered and handled.

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