We think the selectboard was right to urge continued revision of the plan. We have offered our opinion in this space that the Memorial Hall business plan and the MH board’s charge are often at odds with one another. We applaud Murphy and MH board members for trying to work through those conflicts and create something that can work for all members of the community, locals, second-home owners, and businesses.
While they’re at it, perhaps the revised plan should include the phase- out of the Memorial Hall Board.
While this may seem shocking to some, in our opinion there are better options for managing the hall than a volunteer board and a paid town manager trying to work together. As the recent past has shown, there are too many opportunities for miscommunication and opposing priorities.
That’s nothing against any of the current parties involved, far from it. We think the Memorial Hall Board is a committed, dedicated group of volunteers who have the best interests of the hall in their hearts and have done a lot of good.
But ultimately, the management of the hall should be done by municipal staff, professionals who are accountable to the town manager and the selectboard. Imagine a municipal highway department run by a volunteer board. That scenario wouldn’t work very well, and the same logic applies to running an enterprise as important to a community as Memorial Hall is to Wilmington.
Why now? Wilmington appears to be poised to hire an economic development specialist. Whether that position is full time or part time, make it part of that person’s duties to manage the use of the hall. That person would be accountable to the town manager, who would be accountable to the selectboard. There would be a logical, predictable chain of command. The development specialist could be responsible for the marketing of the hall, or that duty could be outsourced.
If a concrete example is needed, just look up the road. Last year, Dover’s selectboard decided to eliminate its volunteer economic development committee. The town had hired a professional economic development specialist, and soon realized the committee’s useful life had run its course. The same could be said for the Memorial Hall Board.
Certainly there could be a reason to keep some volunteer presence engaged and active toward Memorial Hall. Historic preservation comes to mind. That would probably entail a significant amount of fundraising, and that would be a good function for a volunteer committee.
But leave the day-to-day management of the hall to paid staff. It’s the right way to run the property, and the time to chart that course is now