The Rye Heritage Commission met on November 19 th at a Special Meeting. The action which required a meeting was that the Board of Selectmen had declined to send their representative, Administrator Mike Magnant, to a meeting with the Preservation Alliance under the Seven to Save Program. The Alliance had arranged for the engineer who had identified areas needing reinforcement in Town Hall and the architect who had done the extensive building plans at the cost of $250,000.00, to meet with the Chair of the Heritage Commission, a representative of the town, and a representative of the State Historic Resources Division. The meeting was not going to cost the town for the time being volunteered by the professionals. The Selectman declined to allow a town representative to attend and stated that this was an “end run” move around the Rye Town Hall Committee. They further warned that until the Town Hall Committee had arrived at its decisions, the town would not be participating in the Seven to Save effort. Chair of the Heritage explained this to the Commission and all members agreed that it was never the intent of the Commission to undertake what was characterized as an “end run.” The Chair informed the Selectmen that it has always been the goal of the Commission to work cooperatively in the town hall process in accordance with the Rye Heritage Commission’s Mission to preserve historic properties.
There was consensus among the members of the Commission that the Chair should reach out again to the Alliance to arrange such a meeting for brainstorming solutions, without inclusion of the Selectmen’s representative if they remained unwilling to participate in what is intended as a complementary action, not an “end run.”
Discussion continued on the direction being taken by the Town Hall Committee in apparent disregard of the town survey results that the majority of the town did not want Town Hall demolished and did not think having all town employees under one roof was a necessity.
Four members of the Heritage Commission, present at the November 19th meeting, acknowledged that the meeting room on the second floor of Town Hall might need to be sacrificed [at least temporarily] to save the building. Other members have suggested a business plan could be developed so that use of the second floor by the nonprofits, government groups and the public could be profitable. Although a vote was not taken, the consensus was that at least half of the upstairs could continue to be used for offices in order to keep the construction budget in the range suggested by the town survey results as acceptable to the voting citizenry.