Surprisingly, even without any discussion, a simple majority voted IN FAVOR of the $5.4 million article (69-55), but it was not enough to meet the two-thirds vote required.
Had I not missed my opportunity, this is what I wanted to say to Hatfield residents, Historical Society members and those interested in protecting history (with a few revisions given that the Town Meeting has passed):
I support the renovation to the Town Hall for many reasons, but the one that I know the most about has to do with the Hatfield Historical Museum. The Town Hall Renovation would provide four climate-controlled rooms to safely store and display the town’s historical collection, all on the second floor. Since the Historical Society was founded in 1970 (41 years ago) – at which time the all-volunteer Society organized the town’s historical artifacts – the museum was overcrowded, and every curator since then has petitioned and/or begged the town to provide a larger, more climate-controlled space in which to house artifacts that have been collected and saved by townspeople for the last 300 years.
We recently hired a consultant (Museum & Collector Resource) to measure our collections and determine the amount and type of space needed to appropriately house our artifacts. The results of that report, including reviews of plans for both the Town Hall Renovation and the Library Renovation, can be found on the Links & Resources page by clicking HERE, but their review of the rooms earmarked for the storage and display of the Historical Museum Collection in the renovated Town Hall was very favorable.
The town’s collection – and it IS the town’s collection, owned by the Town of Hatfield, administered by the town’s Historical Commission, and cared for and managed by the nonprofit Historical Society – is an irreplaceable group of historic artifacts that Historic Deerfield or Historic Northampton or any other popular local history museum would jump at the chance to own. BUT, what we don’t have, is a climate-controlled, properly-sized location in which to store and display our treasures. Each year that passes, our collection grows more at risk. And we miss additional opportunities – because of lack of space – to be educating and inspiring young and old about history, our history.
Some might say we can’t fund a project as big as this when the local economy is weak and when there are so many other capital expenditures on the docket – that it is not a “good time” to spend this kind of money. But when is this not the case?
Many of us who are homeowners have had to make difficult decisions over the years about spending money we didn’t have at the time to maintain or improve our homes – both to be proactive and prevent emergency repairs and to protect our investment. Why shouldn’t we also take responsibility for our town and its buildings in like fashion? Just because we have done it this way in the past doesn’t mean we can’t choose to do it better in the future.
If not now – then when?
The Town has held meetings and funded multiple studies to help us “envision” what we’d like our downtown to look like, but if we are never ready, as individual voters and taxpayers to fund those visions, then the vision of our Town Center as a thriving, bustling place where people come to do business, socialize, exercise or study may soon be replaced by a center littered with empty “historic” buildings awaiting demolition.
I support the Town Hall Renovation for this year, 2011, while we can still protect the investment in our Town Hall and Town Center.
Our town employees deserve better, our Town Hall deserves better, our seniors getting services from the Senior Center deserve better, and our town’s Historical Museum deserves better.
I urge you to take responsibility for our town, your town, as you do for your home, by voting to FUND Question 1 (Renovating Memorial Town Hall) on Tuesday at the ballot box.
And if enough of us do, then we will have another chance to vote FOR this renovation at a Special Town Meeting, presumably next fall.
Thank you for listening!
--Kathie Gow, Curator, Hatfield Historical Museum