Select Board gives nod to Memorial Hall project

WILMINGTON — About $50,000 worth of improvements to Memorial Hall's basement would be a step in the right direction, according to a group with even bigger ambitions for the Main Street performance venue.

"What we'd really like to do is to make something like the Flynn theater that's in Burlington, which is like a huge explosive thing that's used constantly for performance, for education, for workshops, for elderly," said Andy Hauty, Wings program director.

His group is willing to contribute staff time and about $4,000 to a project that would see new equipment and renovations on the bottom floor of Memorial Hall. On April 5, the Wilmington Select Board encouraged project leaders to start fundraising efforts and then come back to the town with a request. Altogether, about $46,444 will be needed.

Wings has been around for 13 years. After-school programming is provided to schools in Halifax, Readsboro, Stamford, Whitingham and Wilmington. Musicals began to be directed by the group five years ago at Memorial Hall.

"Quite a number of kids have gone into this program," Hauty said. "We started with 40 kids. Sunday, we had an audition for this year's play and we had over 60. So we're seeing more and more kids, also from Dover School, which is outside of our district."

The hope is to expand opportunities around performance in the region. That would also include circus arts, which is another Wings offering.

Renee Galle had been asked to look at what could be done to improve the design of the basement in Memorial Hall.

"After the flood, there was some quick mitigation and it has been left a little bit, I'm going to use the word raw," she said, referring to fixes made after Tropical Storm Irene hit in August 2011. "It can be used in a safer and better way."

Galle said the space could be serve as a dance studio and area for storage. Other possibilities involve rehabilitation, exercise and yoga. And improving rooms currently used for costume changes might help attract more talent.

Wilmington Select Board Chairman Tom Fitzgerald said his only worry was water and "losing our entire investment on that floor."

"Equipment is moveable equipment," Galle replied. "The flooring is portable. Most of what is the build-out is the walls, it's things that are there that should just be done in general. Covering walls. The insulating, which is going to help with heat. A ton of other things."

Currently booking acts at Memorial Hall is a non-profit group known as the Friends of Historic Memorial Hall. Select Board members wondered whether the Wings proposal would step on any toes. Galle does not see any problems arising with the project.

Of the Friends of Historic Memorial Hall, she said, "There's a few members who are ecstatic, over the moon ecstatic, that something possibly might actually be going to happen."

During a separate agenda item, the Friends of Memorial Hall received $4,100 through a grant program funded with the town's local 1 percent tax revenue. The organization is planning to publish a calendar of upcoming events soon.

The town has been making improvements to Memorial Hall annually. But the latest proposal could see new elements brought forward and some things planned for the building might happen sooner.

"We have five members that are in favor of proceeding in the way this was outlined to us," said Fitzgerald.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or @CMaysBR.


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