August 14, 2022

Deep River Town Meeting Authorizes New Structure for Town Hall Auditiorium Restoration Effort

DEEP RIVER— Voters at a town meeting Tuesday authorized the formation of a new committee to coordinate the ongoing effort to restore the auditorium at town hall.

About 15 residents turned out for the meeting, approving the board of selectmen’s recommendation for a new committee and a special town fund on a unanimous voice vote. The resolution had three parts, beginning with the rescinding of a February 1981 town meeting resolution that gave the Deep River Town Hall Restoration Association Inc. sole authority to coordinate restoration of the historic 1892 town hall.

In recent years, the restoration effort has focused on upgrading the second-floor auditorium for wider community use. The board of selectmen earlier this fall urged the association to expedite the restoration effort utilizing a fund made up of private donations to complete the fire safety and building code improvements. The funds held by the association total about $250,000.

After meeting with the board of selectmen on Nov. 8, the association directors agreed to disband the organization and support the selectmen’s goal of establishing a new town committee to complete the improvements to the auditorium as soon as possible.

The second part of the town meeting resolution establishes a new 11-member Deep River Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee to coordinate the effort to restore the auditorium. A third part of the resolution creates a special town fund, to be called the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund, that would be comprised of the donated funds now held by the restoration association.

Former Selectman Arthur Thompson, who pushed for a revised structure for the restoration effort during the final weeks of his term, said the transfer of the funds to the new town special fund would require approval from the state Attorney General’s office, and the regional probate court in Old Saybrook, because the association was both a non-profit corporation and a charitable organization. Thompson said it could take up to two months to secure the required approvals.

First Selectman Richard Smith said the board of selectmen would appoint the new committee during this waiting period, with some members of the association board of directors expected to volunteer to serve on the new committee. Smith said he already has received a list of required fire safety and building code improvements for the auditorium from Building Inspector Richard Leighton.

Smith said the new committee would develop a plan to complete the improvements using the donated monies in the Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Fund. “It should move pretty quick,” he said.

In other business, the town meeting confirmed reappointments to the planning and zoning commission and the zoning board of appeals. Confirmed for a three-year term on the planning and zoning commission were incumbents Janet Edgarton, Nancy Fischbach, and Thomas Walsh. Confirmed for three-year terms on the zoning board of appeals were incumbents Jerome Ackerman, Margot Gamerdinger, and William Harris.

Smith announced there is a new opening on the seven-member planning and zoning commission with the resignation of Angus McDonald Jr., who began his term as the new Democratic selectman this week. McDonald, who replaces Thompson on the board, participated in his first meeting Tuesday. Smith said there is also an alternate vacancy on the commission.