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Friends of Town Hall raise $69,000 for Whately project

WHATELY — For about six months, a group of volunteers have steadfastly been working and calling neighbors and friends to raise money for the town hall project.

So far, Friends of Town Hall has raised $69,000 in private donations and pledges.

The volunteer group’s goal is to raise $200,000.

“What we’re trying to do is raise funds as a gesture of support. We think it’s important,” said volunteer Judy Markland.

The money would support the rehabilitation and expansion of the historic Town Hall on Chestnut Plain Road.

The donations are contingent on townspeople’s support.

At tonight’s town meeting, which begins at 7 p.m., voters will be asked to approve $3.8 million to support final designs and construction. They will also be asked to approve $50,000 of Community Preservation Act money per year for the next 20 years for the project.

If voters appropriate the money at town meeting, they will be asked one final time on a debt exclusion to borrow the $3.8 million at the annual election on June 10.

Because the project has not passed yet, the Friends of Town Hall have not done the standard fundraisers like raffles and events yet. So far, the friends have focused on soliciting people individually. Donors have consisted of former residents and relatives.

If townspeople approve the project, the volunteers will ramp up their fundraising efforts.

The friends have also applied for several private grants. The biggest grant is the Massachusetts Cultural Council grant for $500,000. They will learn of the award in July.

The Whately Historical Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, is the fiscal agent of the Friends. It set up a separate Town Hall fund.

The project is designed by Jones and Whitsett Architects of Greenfield.

The new Town Hall would be energy efficient and receive updated wiring and HVAC systems. It would consolidate town offices, gain full accessibility and restore the upstairs auditorium to full utility. A 3,400-square-foot addition would be built at the rear of the building and a full basement added to provide additional office space and meeting rooms.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268. or @RecorderKatMck

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