The White House sounded a little last night during the Board of Selectmen’s discussion of capital budget items before signing a preliminary warrant for 2012’s annual Town Meeting.
The selectmen stayed split on , a decaying Greek Revival at 1557 Massachusetts Ave., but opted to keep the option open before signing the warrant on Jan. 30.
However, given their split opinions and the feelings of other entities about moving the White House, investing Community Preservation Act funds and future plans, the selectmen said it’s definitely possible the funding request gets indefinitely postponed.
Speaking in favor of keeping this capital funding request on the warrant, selectmen Chairman Hank Manz and Selectman George Burnell said they’d support sprucing up and stabilizing the White House as an investment that would benefit future uses.
“I do not think we should be leaving it sitting, rotting, with the paint falling off and shutters hanging at 60 degrees,” Burnell said, adding he would not spend a penny inside the building at present. “I would proceed at that level. I would not spend any more than that.”
Those opposed—including Selectman Peter Kelley, Selectman Norm Cohen and David Kanter of the Capital Expenditures Committee—expressed concerns about bringing the request forward without more strategic planning and consideration of future uses. Selectwoman Deb Mauger was absent from Monday’s meeting with a reported illness.
According to a BOS packet, the board was considering a $381,000 capital project request for White House Stabilization, of which $148,590 was to come from the general fund debt and .
However, the Community Preservation Committee has recommended against that request. And that’s a main concern for Kanter, who said he feels it’s inappropriate to bring this project forward within the general levy limit without funding from the CPA.
“I urge you not to do it at this time,” he said. “It’s not time essential and it makes sense to consider uses before going forward with any mobilization for stabilization.”
Cohen said he would not want to spend a lot of money on the White House, but he called the building “an absolute disgrace” and said he would be OK with spending something to stabilizing a portion of the structure and take down the “barn” and “the L.”
Previously, the selectmen have discussed potential plans to stabilize and move the White House from its location next to the and using it for affordable housing elsewhere in town. Selectman Kelley has suggested razing the building and using the land as a place for a tent party during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration.
Various other ideas have involved stabilizing and renovating the White House, or at least portions of it, and reusing it at its current location for office space, a community center and Liberty Ride starting point, among others.
According to Manz, the Historic Districts Commission does not intend to allow the White House to be moved off of the current site, although there is some indication it could be moved within the site and portions of the house could be demolished.