Town of Sutton, NH

26 Grist Mill Street Committee

Minutes of the Public Information Session

Pillsbury Memorial Hall, Sutton Mills

Sept. 26, 2019

Members of the committee present:  Dane Headley, Chair, Don Davis, Glenn Pogust, Bob DeFelice, Co-Chair, Andy Jeffrey and Betsy Forsham,

Members of the public present: Sue Esposito, SM; Roger Wells, NS; Walter Baker, Jr., NS; Don J. Davis, NS; Larry & Peg Ford, NS; Betty Whittemore, SS; Charles Ash, NS; Dorothy Jeffrey, SS; Bill and Susan Uhl, NS; Judy and Jim Lowe, NS; Samantha Gordon, NS; Kathryn Schneider and Marc Beauchemin; SM; Gail Guertin, NS: Anita Blakeman, SM; Bonnie Hill, SS; Susan Knight, SS; Jenny Menning, NS; Brenda Digilio, NS; Amy Highstrom, SM. (NS=N. Sutton – SS= S. Sutton – SM = Sutton Mills).

Call to order:  Chair Dane Headley called the session to order at 7:10 p.m.  Participants each received a packet containing computer generated visuals of the various scenarios being considered by the committee and discussed this evening.

Chair Headley introduced members of the committee.  He then explained that the committee was formed to come up with ways to turn 26 Grist Mill St. into a parking area, the primary reason the town voted to purchase the property.  At town meeting, several citizens requested that the Board also look into ways that the house could be preserved.  To facilitate the exploration of all options, the Select Board created the committee.  The Chair went on to explain what has been done to date. The committee has been meeting most every week since May, has consulted with a number of experts regarding the condition of the buildings, maintenance needs both present and future, parking configurations as related to plowing and summer maintenance and safety considerations, estimated costs associated with various scenarios, etc.

It was noted that the committee has received three letters from interested citizens unable to attend the meeting.  Sue Esposito read letters from both Pete and Marne Thompson, N. Sutton and Mark Peterson, S. Sutton who all spoke in favor of demolishing the buildings.  Bill Uhl read his and wife Susan’s letter, also in favor of demolition.  Sutton’s high tax rate and maintenance costs for another town owned building were a concern.

Chair Headley proceeded to explain the four scenarios the committee has explored, referencing the handouts so folks could follow along.  He explained that the committee envisions a parking area with around 20 spaces plus a van space for handicapped parking, a gravel/bluestone surface with the property enclosed by an attractive fence of granite posts linked by a metal chain (like the Sutton Mills cemetery), with old fashioned lamp posts for lighting.  The committee is also incorporating space for a “park” in each scenario, as Sutton Mills is the one Sutton which does not have a public green space for events, picnics and the like.  Ingress will be from Main Street and egress from Grist Mill St. Mention was also made of the recent idea to use either the back of the house, if the ell and barn are demolished, to display the hearse presently housed on the town hall stage or to construct a separate building (the 10’ x 18’ “shed” shown on the handouts) to serve both for the hearse display and a pavilion for the park.  Several folks were in favor of doing something to get the hearse removed so that the stage could be used for town functions.  The Chair then described in detail the four scenarios, which show parking spaces in various configurations, a park, the shed, and the buildings with all retained, just the house retained, and no buildings at all.  He said the committee had decided to pursue just two of the scenarios, # 1 and #3 – #1 shows all buildings removed and #3 shows retention of the house, with the ell and barn removed.  It decided on these two as the other options would prove to be too costly and or impractical, both now and in the future.  It was noted that if the house were to be retained, it could be used for storage for any department needing it as well as for housing and displaying the hearse.  Folks would view it from the outside as it would be glassed in, with appropriate climate controls. Mention was made of a plan presented at the 1988 at town meeting for expansion of the town hall which, if enacted, would take over what is now a storage area behind the stage.  It was defeated at the time due to lack of parking.  If the plan were to be resurrected, it would not be for 15-20 years, until other big ticket items such as a new fire station have been taken care of.  Chair Headley did say that costs associated with all the scenarios have been and are being explored, and we hope to have some solid figures to present with our recommendations to the Select Board and to the voters at town meeting in March.  It will be voters who will ultimately decide how to proceed with the lot.

The meeting was then opened up to questions/comments from the attendees.  

– Bill Uhl asked about renting one of the commercial storage buildings for town documents.

– Charlie Ash questioned the fragility of the hearse but was assured that wherever it ends up, it would be well protected in a climate controlled enclosure.

– Susan Knight asked about the plans for town hall expansion and whether they were still viable.  Member DeFelice responded yes, but could not be acted on for 15-20 years.

– Member Pogust discussed the barn and the fact that everyone who looked it over felt it was not worth spending money on.  He also noted that the house has been deemed to be in good condition and that the committee is not entertaining any plans for renovations, such as one might do if it were to become office space.  There would be too many costs involved, with ADA requirements, state codes, etc. needing to be incorporated.  The Chair also noted that there are aesthetic considerations associated with the house and its place on Main Street as one of several old houses adding to the charm of the village.

– Gail Guertin had moisture concerns with the house.  Member Forsham explained that there had been a lot of work done to address that and that the basement and crawl spaces had water barrier materials in place.

– Sue Esposito asked about storing records in a house which will not be climate controlled.  Member Pogust said that house would be heated at a low level and that sensitive records would remain at town hall.  The committee is working on costs associated with heat and electricity and maintenance needs the house might have should it be retained.

– Judy Lowe opined on the importance on having the town hall stage available to various groups for programs and activities.  She wondered if the hearse should be placed in a more visible and visited place such as Muster Field Farm Museum or, as someone else suggested, at a New London Historical Society building.

– Wally Baker commented on the two scenarios being considered by the committee as well as concerns with the hearse being well protected.

– Roger Wells thanked the committee for all its hard work to date.  He then handed out a document containing goals and recommendations for the house and lot, along with a plan. He said retention of the house keeps the visual historical aspect of the village intact and that the house could be closed up and allowed to sit until it was decided what to do with it. He discussed some of his ideas which he felt would result in lower taxes, different uses for houses in the villages, etc.  Chair Headley felt the use of the building should be decided now, as there will be costs associated with it which will need to be justified.

– Amy Highstrom expressed concerns with snow banks along the roadways which might attract kids who could be injured while playing on them.  She also discussed vandalism concerns and wondered if removing the buildings and disturbing the site would result in water runoff problems.  She suggested that installing solar might help with electrical costs.

– Roger Wells suggested selling or renting the house to a business.  Others pointed out potential problems with that with shared parking, winter and summer maintenance costs, etc.

– Charlie Ash discussed the original warrant article and felt that he (and others) would have to be convinced that retaining the house will be cost effective. 

– Chair Headley reiterated that the committee will have to balance the costs of demolishing the house vs. retaining it and, if used for storing the hearse, determining its maintenance costs vs. the costs of constructing and maintaining a separate hearse house/building.

– Judy Lowe mentioned that the Sutton Historical Society will be holding its annual meeting on Sat., Oct. 26 at the North Sutton Meeting House, with Rebecca Rule as guest speaker at 3:00.

– Inquiry was made as to whether the house could be visited.  Member Forsham said she would be happy to take interested folks through, by appointment.

– Sue Esposito named all the town owned buildings which the town presently has to maintain.  She wondered if it was wise to add another one.

Several other topics were briefly bandied about, ranging from who will plow the parking area to using the ell foundation to create a ramp to view the hearse, all of which will be considered at a future time, as appropriate.

Chair Headley thanked everyone for coming and sharing their views.  It has been very helpful and will be a part of the committee’s deliberations.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Betsy Forsham

Recording Secretary