SANDOWN – Once again, progress on drafting an agreement between the board of selectmen and the Sandown historical society over use of the Train Depot Museum quickly vanished. But with an agreement nearly within their grasp, board members showed their frustration over the continued lack of progress, as once again they charged historical society president Bruce Robinson with unnecessarily complicating what they see as a simple exercise.
“This is crazy,” repeated chair Tom Tombarello several times through the Monday night meeting, as discussion with Robinson continually bogged down
For his part Robinson seemed most concerned with his claims that the town has not taken good care of the depot and that the selectmen have gone behind the society’s collective back. He cited his experience as an engineer and spoke about missteps the town has made with the building.
Selectmen attempted to point out that the building is owned by the town and as the town’s leaders, they have the final say in what happens to town infrastructure, not the historical society.
The issue has been around for nearly a year, and while meetings between the two groups often hint at progress, it is quickly dashed by the next time the groups get together.
According to a discussion earlier in the month, the society’s members agreed to take a selectmen-drafted use agreement, review it and pass their concerns about its contents through the selectmen’s office. The intended result was that an agreement could be drawn up with input from both sides and the matter put to rest the next time the groups met.
But this has been tried numerous times before.
And on Monday, Robinson and Bob Bruder instead brought a society-drafted agreement to the board for signing.
Selectman Hans Nicolaisen immediately pointed out that the society had not done what was agreed to at the previous meeting, showing his frustration with the issue.
While Tombarello indicated he’d like to get the matter settled that evening and have the selectmen review the society’s document, other members were fed up.
“This is the sixth or seventh time we’ve had you guys here,” said Tombarello. He added that he thought it was a simple task for the society to review the selectmen’s document, propose any changes they saw fit and come to the meeting ready to settle the matter.
“I don’t think you guys should have altered the agreement. Unfortunately it looks like we’re at a stalemate again,” said Tombarello.
Robinson said he hadn’t seen the last meeting that way, and that as he saw it, the selectmen had agreed two weeks ago to the society’s document.
“We have a very simple agreement that was put out there for you to take it, and you don’t even use it. You use your own,’ said Nicolaisen. “I’m so fed up with this. I’ve had it.”
Selectman Terry Treanor sought clarification on why Robinson indicated in the society’s document that he wanted no one in the building unless he was there too.
This prompted Robinson to charge an unnamed selectman with running around like a loose cannon inside the building with a “mystery woman” from the state, pointing out problems. He stated that the society had a vested interest in caring for the building and members were affronted to find that meetings were happening without them present. He added that the society was often blindsided by the selectmen, before launching into a discourse on the building’s “abysmal” upkeep.
Treanor argued that Robinson didn’t have the story straight.
Selectmen have met with state and private historical preservation groups in an attempt to determine what can and can’t be done to the building, in part so as not to jeopardize its listing on the state and national historical registers. This occurred concurrently with an effort out of the selectmen’s office to secure grants for the building’s improvement.
As Robinson began to discuss the type and number of thermostats in the depot, Tombarello cut him off, suggesting the society should sign the selectmen’s document and come back at a later meeting to suggest changes.
When Robinson said the selectmen’s document had no protection for the society, Treanor responded that in private discussion Robinson had stated he wanted no protection and that he was adamant that he was not going to allow the board of selectmen to tell him what to do.
Robinson did not respond to Treanor.
While the society’s document indicates a 1982 warrant article that had the townspeople agree the society would cover utility costs for the building, the selectmen explained that the article is no longer valid because of its age.
Nicolaisen pointed to state law that governs municipal lease agreements and read portions of a letter from town legal counsel explaining how the article is null and void. Robinson said he did not read the warrant article in the same way that the lawyer did.
Nicolaisen threw up his hands and said he was done. “I can’t believe what we’re going through here,” said Nicolaisen.
“It’s crazy,” added Tombarello.
By the end of the meeting, the entire board indicated that the society either sign the selectmen’s agreement or they’d find another use for the depot.
Bruder agreed to visit the following day to sign the single year term agreement.
After Robinson and Bruder agreed, Robinson pushed another change to Tombarello.
“We just told him what we wanted and here he is again. Sign the damn thing or we’re done,” said Nicolaisen.
On Tuesday, the historical society did not sign the agreement, but instead brought in its own agreement.