Sunday, February 1, 2015

Community Muscles

If there is such a thing as high summer, then mustn't there be a high winter? This week feels like it. With two whopper snowstorms behind us and another one before us, we Village Farmers are knee deep in seed catalogs and crop planning spreadsheets between plowing and shoveling events.

The barnyard report is blissfully uneventful. The cows grunch-grunch their hay in a most satisfying way and the hens are happily ensconced in their hoophouse turned chicken house. That is about it. Well, I guess we did find out this week, in a most embarrassing way, that Miss Meow, a recent addition to the barnyard menagerie, is actually a male. Oh well, leave it to the farmers to skip looking for the identifying parts.

There was a solid turnout Thursday night at a community meeting here in Freedom. I don't get out much, as they say, but as the children were off for a weekend with their grandparents, it was a pleasure to sit with other Freedomites for a few hours of mid-winter scheming. The scheming at hand was regarding a building that the Historical Society acquired this past fall. The Society paid back taxes to the town to take ownership of "Keen Hall," the yellow house on the western edge of our village. Most people remember it as the principal's house. Clayton Larrabee remembers taking his senior finals in it in the 50's. 

Chris Glass, an expert on historical preservation was in attendance and he spoke eloquently to the value, both economic and cultural, of historical preservation of significant buildings. He brought some drawings of possible renovation scenarios for the 18x36 original building, the 18x18 original ell and also recommended that the existing, decrepit garage be torn down.

The Historical Society asked for ideas from the gathered citizens. There were words of encouragement and support and, of course, words of doubt.

Not everyone agreed that this building was a worthy project but in the speaking and listening, a few key misconceptions were cleared up.
1. This is not a town project. There will be no additional tax burden to Freedom residents. This is a project of a newly incorporated 501(c)3 non-profit (The Freedom Community Historical Society).
2. Though non-profits do not pay taxes to the town, some choose to give a "payment in lieu of taxes" to acknowledge the use of town services and the fact that a property in town is no longer on the tax rolls.

What I witnessed was a room full of people who were interested enough in the project to leave their woodstoves and comfy chairs and show up to a meeting. I heard people speaking up in support and others speaking up in dissent. To me, this all adds up to the good news that people care. And since change comes only through our active participation in our places, our towns, our waterways, I think that those who want to work together should work together.
Working together builds our community muscles.
And working together feels good.
There are certainly many ways to improve and give back to our town. (Cleaning up falling down houses was one that came up quite a few times last night.) Through the initiative of the Historical Society, the one before us last eve was a "bold," (to quote Mr. Freedom General) suggestion that instead of tearing down an eyesore, we fix it up. This house stands at the western gateway to our village. The questions on the table were "Does this part of our history have a future? Should we work together to save it?"

I do hope so. I look forward to lending my hands to its restoration but mostly I look forward to having a project to work on with my neighbors.

Want to get involved? Next meeting of the Freedom Historical Society is Wednesday, Feb 11 at the Town Office Annex. 7pm.
With all our best, The Village Farmers