Committee will make 1 last attempt to save Belmont's Gale School building

BELMONT — A group of citizens interested in the future or non-future of the historic Gale School has formed with the intent of saving the empty building from possible demolition.

The group, consisting of Ken Knowlton, former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill and Diane Marden, is in its infancy and has not made any recommendations said Knowlton.

"We realize the town is not interested in it," he said.

When she last night informed the Shaker Regional School Board of her discussions with town officials about the old school, Superintendent Maria Dreyer said she has no idea what the citizen's group is going to propose but she wanted the board to know of its existence.

"This is the last hurrah," said Knowlton, who said the three of them have an idea but are unwilling to share it with anyone until they have completed the logistics.

The Gale School belongs to the school district and for years the district and townspeople have wrestled over what to do with it. The building sits up on a shoulder of Bryant Field, behind the Belmont Middle School.  Knowlton said it has not been used as a school since the late 1950s or early 1960s.

At the most recent selectmen meeting on July 15 and as part of the town's overall study of every town-owned building, Building Inspector Steve Paquin said the Building Assessment Committee indicated it was beyond repair and likely had no historic value other than the sentimental one from the citizens of Belmont.

He said it would likely fall apart if it were to be moved in one piece and the simple logistics of where it is and its size would indicate it could be nearly impossible and very expensive to relocate.

Dreyer told the board last night that she met with the town administrator and Selectman Ron Cormier who told her the town "would support the (school) board's stand if we wanted to raze it."

One of her suggestions was to incorporate pieces or parts of the Gale School into the new pavilion the town is building in the village center as part of the Village Revitalization Project. She said when 10 schools in her former school district in Florida were destroyed by a hurricane, some of the clapboards from the wooden ones were incorporated in to new schools by getting local people to sponsor and inscribe them.

She told the board that if they were to try and incorporate some of the Gale School into the new pavilion, the administrative and legal process would need soon because the pavilion, which is paid in part by a federal grant, must be finished by December of 2014 and covered into a warrant article by March of 2014.

Members of the board said the latest numbers to either rehabilitate it, move it, or raze it are about 8-years-old and need to be current before they could continue their discussion.

"We really have to see how we can fiscally work together," Dreyer said.

Dreyer also said the meeting she held with town officials was to discuss better cooperation all around between the town and the school district and included plowing, the sharing of facilities with the town Department of Parks and Recreation and the plans for the reconstruction of School Street.