Westport Select Board Tackles Future of Old High School Building

In a recent meeting, the Westport Select Board centered its discussion on the fate of the old high school building, a issue due to the structure’s deteriorating condition and the potential financial implications for the town. The board evaluated options including maintaining, selling, demolishing, mothballing, or renovating the site, ultimately recommending the development of a strategic plan to renovate the building for municipal use. This significant town property, encompassing 62.1 acres, is currently used for multiple community functions, but faces challenges such as a defective boiler, termite infestation, and well issues.

The committee tasked with evaluating the future of the old high school building presented the board with a narrowed set of options after ruling out the continuation of the property as a school. The options presented for the board’s consideration included demolition, mothballing, or repurposing for municipal use, with cost estimates ranging from $2 million to $35 million. The committee’s recommendation to the board was to pursue a strategic plan for renovating the building for municipal purposes, a path that would likely necessitate a financial override or debt exclusion to fund.

Discussions on the building delved into the practicality of the current town buildings for their designated uses and the growing concern over a plan for municipal space. Dialogue on the timeline for action included the possibility of a debt exclusion vote as early as November, alongside the need to update cost estimates for renovation and to assess the condition of all town-owned buildings. The long-term building committee was tasked with returning with specific needs to carry forward the strategic plan.

The board also addressed the care, maintenance, and operation of the Westport Senior Junior High School, discussing the authorization from a previous town meeting to potentially sell the building. There was debate on the financial implications of hiring a consultant for a feasibility study, with some members questioning the expenditure of $200,000 without a clear direction.

The meeting included discussions on other town-owned properties, emphasizing the need for a strategic plan to assess and determine the best uses for these assets. The potential transfer of a building’s maintenance and operation to the Select Board was debated, considering the value of the property and the costs associated with renovation for municipal purposes.

In the realm of public involvement and transparency, the Select Board considered the creation of an offshore wind advisory committee. This committee would aim to understand and advise on the potential impacts of proposed offshore wind projects, such as the one by Vineyard Wind. The board discussed whether to form a new committee or to incorporate existing committees like Conservation Commission, Economic Development, and Climate Resiliency. Public comments highlighted a desire for transparency and the importance of stakeholder representation, including the fishing industry and local businesses.

The meeting also touched on the town planner’s request for a support letter for the coastal zone resilience grant. Additionally, an agreement was approved between the Select Board and the scouts for the use of space at the transfer station for a bottle and can redemption program.

The board went on to approve various other items, including the awarding of the fiscal 2025 motor fuels bid, the creation of a part-time production assistant position for Westport Community TV, and updates on town hall improvements and ongoing projects. The board also provided a reminder about vacancies on boards and committees.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.
Town Administrator:
Jim Hartnett
City Council Officials:
Richard Brewer, Steve Ouellette, Manuel Soares, Ann Boxler, Shana Shufelt, Denise Bouchard (Secretary), Jim Hartnett (Town Administrator), Paula Brown (Administrative Assistant/Confidential Clerk)

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