Minutes: August 23 08–draft

on Sep 6th 2008

The minutes below should be considered a draft, pending approval by the PHS board.

PHS Minutes, Aug. 23, 2008
Present: Stuart, Ruth, Lyssa, Tom , Tim, Maryanne, Lindley, Jane
Meeting called to order at 9:30 a.m.

Prior to meeting: We determined that the Joy family settee recently offered us was not from Vermont, and so we will not accept it. Ruth will encourage the donors to research the Joy family in Ohio instead.

Stuart Strothman called the meeting to order.

Minutes of May 31, 2008 accepted.

Putney General Store
Lyssa summarized the efforts of a group of concerned citizens trying to prevent the historic Putney General Store from total decline, before it is too late to preserve it. Since the April fire, the 1769 structure has remained boarded up in the center of town. The owners are struggling with the funding needed to rebuild it, as the banks are claiming the insurance money. Meanwhile the historic building (that became a store in 1863) is at risk of complete ruin. Furthermore, it is subject to vandalism and could affect the plight of our community.

Private owners do not qualify for grant money for historic reparation, but non-profit organizations, such as the PHS, do. While we may be a logical group to qualify for these grants, it may be best to form an organization specifically for this project. Two major, but competitive, grants for acquisition and restoration could help facilitate this. One is a Vermont Housing and Restoration grant that could award up to $150,000 initially. The other is a Community Development grant for housing that could supply up to $30,000.

Lyssa’s group has been helping the owners to look at options for selling the Putney General Store. Her group has been meeting with the Vermont director and has been offered an option to purchase the property themselves at the price of $105,000. They are looking for someone to hold the property for the short term to assure its preservation, as they explore scenarios for the long term. One such scenario is that we, the PHS, could act as an interim custodian of the store, who can acquire grants and bring it to market rate. We could stabilize it and then pass it on to another non- or even for-profit organization. Or we could look to restore, and own the building, with options for having a museum upstairs and for leasing the store down stairs.

The PHS needs to decide if we want to pull $110,000 together to initiate this purchase. Lyssa said we would form a Community Board to guide this project. Tim spoke of the high costs involved, given the condition of the gutted, water damaged building. An estimate on the roof and clean out alone is $30,000. Tim believes it will cost roughly $200,000 to stabilize the building and an additional $500,000 to fully restore it.

The initial total cost of $110,000 could be funded by a loan through the National Trust and key individuals. The deadline is October 1st. Paul Bruhn is looking into a potential grant of $75,000 through the Vermont Housing and Conservation board.

Motion: Ruth moved that we look into the purchase of the Putney General Store and appoint Lyssa as official liaison. Maryanne seconded the motion.

Discussion ensued. Tim mentioned Andy Rockefeller regarding the trusses/beams. Lyssa said American Construction bid $72,000 for the truss roof, which could go up in three week’s time. She also detailed further scenarios, such as the creation of one or two apartments upstairs, as part of a partnership with the Windham Trust. This would be part of scattered housing, involving several partners. There are models of non-profit owners with leases to for-profit partners, such as in Grafton. At any rate, the store should stay on the property tax roles.

Stuart asked who would do what. Lyssa said that the PHS would be the assignee of the option/ the legal owner of the store. Lyssa would immediately create the Community Board. Paul Bruhn is pushing ahead with the question of how to raise money.

Meanwhile, Lyssa wants to hire Bob Stevens to look at the structure and assess it. Her group needs an appraisal as the building sits today. Bob could provide rehab assessments relative to the various scenarios. For example, having tenants upstairs would require a lift at a cost of about $100,000 and would need to be factored in. The upstairs is 2400 square feet, and so there is potential space for a museum, an apartment, and/or an office. The scenarios are complex, but possible, if we explore them.

Motion Passed: The motion to look into the purchase of the Putney General Store and appoint Lyssa as official liaison was then passed unanimously.

Next, the question of the PHS’s role in helping Lyssa’s group was explored. Stuart will conduct a town wide mailing, to 2300 boxes in 05346, as part of our campaign to raise money and to notify membership of our annual meeting on the 21st Sept. Lyssa will move forward in forming a Community Board and in writing a press release for the Brattleboro Reformer and iputney.com. Stuart then formed a PHS General Store subcommittee for leg work and decision making, and will convene the PHS Board if necessary. Tim, Stuart and Lyssa will serve on this subcommittee.

How involved should the PHS become with this project as the non-profit organization who qualifies for grant money? The treasury part of this would be complex. We would want to hire someone to make a financial plan and manage it. As with the Library Board, this project could use a clerk-of- the-works. Lyssa thinks this initial purchase step is not too risky. We’re committing time, but not money. If it’s not the right fit, perhaps it’s a worthy project that can be passed on.

Ruth suggested that we have Paul Bruhn speak about purchasing and holding the Putney General Store to assure its preservation, at our upcoming Annual Meeting. He refers to a project, entitled “The Lake House,” as a good model of a similar community project. Although we will invite Paul to speak, the September 28 meeting is too close to the purchase deadline of October 1. Also, the building must be purchased before the roof can be fixed, and so there is an urgency to stabilize the store.

Motion: Lyssa moved that the PHS Board authorize its newly formed subcommittee to apply for grants, accept them, take money, and sign legal documents pertaining to the purchase of the Putney General Store before Oct 1, 2008. Ruth seconded the motion.

Motion Passed: The motion passed with 6 votes in favor and 1 opposed.

The results of the Annual Meeting and the response to our newsletter appeal will give us an indication of how we should move forward in helping to preserve the Putney General Store. Perhaps we can find an individual to buy it before Oct 1. At any rate, Lyssa hopes that we take the lead on being the nonprofit to get funding by Oct 1, possibly through the Preservation Trust. Tomorrow, Tim will join Lyssa and others in examining the damaged building.

Nomination of Officers
Stuart appointed Ruth and Maryanne to the Nominating Subcommittee. Jane regrets leaving her office of secretary at the end of this year’s term. In light of that change, Nominating Chairperson Maryann will present the following slate of officers at the September 28th meeting: President, Stuart Strothman; Vice President, Tim Raigle; Secretary, Lindley Speers; Treasurer, Tom Jamison.

The Newsletter and Annual Meeting
In addition to the Putney General Store project, Stuart plans to highlight the Putney Stories project at the Annual Meeting. Meanwhile, he will get the PHS newsletter out in a week. To accommodate the town-wide mailing, he will use the town’s bulk rate permit. He will make extra copies for the Preservation Trust, as well as for the Putney School, Greenwood School, Landmark College, and even Windham College alumni. He will promote the cause of saving the historic Putney General Store. Maryanne will help with the mailing.

The Annual Meeting is on Sunday, September 28th, at 2:00 p.m. Location –to be announced.
Meeting adjourned at 11:00 a.m.
Respectfully submitted,
Jane Rawley
Secretary

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