December 15, 2019

Deep River Selectmen to Seek New Town Meeting Resolution for Town Hall Restoration Association

DEEP RIVER— The board of selectmen will seek a new town meeting resolution and authorization for the ongoing activities of the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc.

The board met Tuesday with directors of the association that was established as a non-profit corporation in 1979. While the group was involved initially in coordinating general improvements to the historic 1892 town hall, more recent efforts have focused on restoring the second-floor auditorium for broader community use.  A 1981 town meeting vote approved a resolution authorizing the group to coordinate town hall restoration efforts.

William Bouregy, a local attorney who serves on the board of directors, said the association has about $280,000 in various accounts. He said the money is used to fund ongoing improvements to the town hall auditorium, with about $33,700 spent on improvements and stage equipment since 2008. Most of the fund is from donations from town residents, including a large contribution from the Charles Messerschmidt Memorial Trust in 2005.

Bouregy said the association has hired local resident Linalynn Schmelzer as a part-time promoter/manager to promote use of the auditorium by local and area theater groups, while also coordinating use of the auditorium. There are fire code limitations on use of the 130-seat auditorium, with each use authorized under a special permit approved by Fire Marshall Richard Leighton.

Selectman Arthur Thompson said many of the association’s current efforts, including the manager/promoter, are not authorized under the 1981 town meeting resolution, which refers to a plan for building improvements that is largely complete. Thompson said he also has concerns about the ongoing nature of the association’s efforts, noting “at some point, not right now, this authority should end.”

Ted Mackenzie said the volunteer group has pride, but no sense of ownership, of the effort to restore and maintain the town hall auditorium. “We would be very happy to turn the whole ball of wax back over to the town,” he said. Mackenzie added the association does not have sufficient funds to complete all required fire code improvements related to the auditorium.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board is ready to work with association members in updating the authorization resolution to cover all of the association’s current activities.  Selectman David Oliveria said he views the promoter/manager position as “a good thing if it is authorized.”

The board agreed to hold one or more workshop meetings with association directors to work on updating the town’s authorization resolution. The revised resolution would then be presented to voters for approval at a town meeting.