One of the first improvements on the society’s list is a new boiler for their museum and headquarters, the Harris House. Currently, the house remains unheated and closed to the public during winter months. “We’re going to have to put the heat back on,” Brown said. “Some of the artifacts are starting to be affected and it will be worse if we don’t have some heat. So we need an energy efficient furnace.”
Historical society president Dan Baliotti said the new equipment would also allow them to utilize the Harris House basement for more displays. He said interest in the society and its collection had been on the rise, thanks to a partnership with the Living History Association and its president, Jim Dassatti. “He has helped us with grant writing and displays – unbelievable displays,” Baliotti said.
During a special exhibit on the Civil War, Baliotti noted, 150 to 200 people showed up at Harris House. “We’ve never had more than a dozen before.”
“We need to preserve our history,” added Brown. “Nobody is going to appreciate the history of the town of Dover if we don’t have these things for them. Kids won’t know what the historical society means to the town of Dover if we don’t teach them.”
Baliotti said heating the Harris House in the winter would also give the society the opportunity to reach out to students. “Kids go to school during the time when it’s cold in (the Harris House),” he said. “If we have heat it can be available at any time.”
A related project, Brown said, would be to get the building insulated.
Because the building is adjacent to the north branch of the Deerfield River, Brown said that another project the society plans is the construction of a berm protecting the building from flood waters.
Selectboard chair Linda Holland noted that the society hoped to use the $20,000 as matching funds for grants to carry out their projects. “We’ve got to have something to back us up when we’re looking for grants,” agreed Brown. Board member William “Buzzy” Buswell suggested the board’s capital funding request was too low. “In my opinion, you should be asking for about $35,000. It’s been 10 or more years since the historical society has requested funds for that building, and you hit the nail on the head when you said it’s about the history of the town of Dover.”
Buswell said the society should make safety improvements to a staircase leading to the Harris House basement “so the public can enjoy it more.”
“Well, I don’t think we’d ever turn down money,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of work to be done.”
Board members moved to approve the society’s request for $20,000 and to include it in the municipal budget, rather than as a separately-warned item on the Town Meeting warning. But Buswell tried to convince the board to increase the amount. “I just don’t think $20,000 is sufficient. I would say, to be on the safe side, I’d like to see $25,000.”
Board member Randy Terk objected, noting that Buswell has moved to increase such requests in the past and, perhaps paradoxically, has also complained about increases in tax burden. “You talk about the tax burden going up, and then you want to throw more money in!” said Terk. “An organization has asked for $20,000, they’ve studied it and said that’s what they need, and I don’t see any reason for increasing it. The tax burden is high, and it’s likely to go up.”
“I think the increase is warranted,” said Baliotti. “Buzzy’s right about the stairs.”
Board members voted to include the $20,000 capital funding request in their budget.
In other budget discussions, board members asked meeting attendees their opinion on a change in how budgets and expenditures for the town’s buildings are presented in the Town Report. Currently, the cost of heating, electricity, and building maintenance for some buildings is included in the budget of the department that uses the facility, while expenses for some buildings, such as the library/day care building, are included in the general budget. “We’re asking people here if they would rather see those buildings grouped so you know the cost for each and every building,” said Holland.
There were varying opinions among meeting attendees, and a number of questions. Some people, including library trustees, were concerned how it might affect the library, and how the accounting would be handled.
“These costs would not become part of the library budget?” asked Mary Lou Raymo.
Terk indicated that it would simply be a matter of a few changes on the balance sheet. “Say heat and electricity cost $10,000, then the appropriation for the library would go up $10,000. It’s just showing what the true cost is.”
“I don’t think we should be allocating that money to the library and having them pay the bills,” said Raymo. “Are they going to pay the town back if the costs are less at the end of the year?”
Adam Levine asked how far the board was willing to go in dividing the costs among departments. “Everyone in this (town office) building is using the common space. Would you divide that cost up, too?”
“I would,” said Terk. He said the board was only suggesting a new way to account for expenses, not looking for a new way to charge expenses. “We could do both, we could present it multiple ways with just a few extra pages in the town report.”
“It doesn’t seem practical,” said Levine.