Should we get rid of the Arts Center?

Southborough Arts Center

Advisory Committee member Al Hamilton has a plan to balance the budget, and it doesn’t revolve around layoffs or salary freezes or cuts to programs. What’s his magic bullet?

Sell the Southborough Arts Center.

Or Fayville Hall, or Fire Station 2, or the Cemetery Building, all of which he labels “money pits.” In a recent letter to the Southborough Villager, Hamilton makes his case using the Arts Center as his primary example. Here’s an excerpt:

The point of this example is not to pick on the Arts Center, but to suggest that this is but one of many examples of wasteful and ineffective practices that are just “business as usual” in Southborough.  Southborough, exclusive of schools, operates about 85,000 square feet of space (this is equal to about 30 homes) spread over nine buildings. No rational process would lead a disinterested party to recommend this configuration and the funds dedicated to the maintenance of this space are completely inadequate.

The Board of Selectmen takes up the issue of the Arts Center at their meeting tonight.

What do you think? Should the town sell the Arts Center or other municipal buildings to help reduce costs and balance the budget? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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14 years ago

I think Al hit the nail right on the head with his assessment. And just think, there is another group out there that would like to save the Peters Annex (Police Station) should a new police station be built. This would only add to the list of money pits the town owns.

Joe M
14 years ago

The building is one question…
The building and others like is a money pit because of poor planning and management. Making an older building efficient takes planning and foresight. Instead of looking ahead and making the necessary investments along the way, we ignore them in favor of dumping money into oil and electricity. And then by the time we get to the discussion of retrofit, the cost is so high (because it’s decades of projects wrapped into one) that people want to ditch the property. This is a “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” approach.

The fate of the Arts Center is another question…
Despite not having a functional building over the past two years (no working elevator making it illegal to hold public functions), Southborough has one of the most vibrant arts communities in Metro West. If we want to be a great town, we need to support this effort.

Currently, the town provides the space, but otherwise, the Arts Center organization is completely self sufficient. Over time, the Arts Center will build momentum and will be able to contribute to the cost of maintaining the building (in the past, the Arts Center paid all of the energy costs and has sunk much of its own money into renovations). To get back to that point, the town needs to believe that the Center will survive and the residents will be willing to support it again in larger numbers as in the past.

And they are linked…
As I understand it, the current Arts Center building is the only viable home for the Arts Center. We are in a very difficult financial situation which makes our mistakes of the past much more difficult to cover up. Selling the building in this economic climate will not fetch a good price, and while it would create some relief in the form of cash and savings short term, selling it would be taking the easy way out from a numbers standpoint and would kill a longstanding and worthy institution.

The recession is brutal, but it’s not forever. Let’s take the opportunity to make smart long term decisions.

14 years ago

On 2 occassions the South Union School has been neglected. Once it was closed when Finn School opened and another when it was closed as a kindergarten center. On both occassions it quickly fell into disrepair and it was vandalized – an ugly sight in the middle of a nice residential neighborhood. Who would purchase this building???? What else could it be used for???? I suggest the town continue to maintain it. Same is true of Station 2 and the Fayville Hall

14 years ago

Amen Joe M!!!

And I would add that your comments are “ditto” for the police station. It is a wonderful and usable building that has suffered by neglect, cutting of important corners and very poor planning. Now the town wants to demolish it. We are stewards of these properties. They are valuable assets in the form of our culture, history, the architectural character of our town and in actual bricks and mortar that earlier generations paid for dearly.

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