Colrain board halts use of Pitt House buildings

  • The G. William Pitt House. Recorder file photo

Recorder Staff
Thursday, June 07, 2018

COLRAIN — Monthly slide shows, programs and lectures in the Stacy Barn, on the grounds of the G. William Pitt House, have been canceled this summer, after Building Inspector Shawn Kimberley denied certificates of occupancy for the both the Pitt House and the Stacy Barn.

The Selectboard asked Kimberley to either issue occupancy certificates, possibly with conditions attached, or to deny them. Kimberley said a structural and architectural compliance review was performed by design professionals within the past year and, “within those two reports, the requirements are listed which must be addressed” before he could issue certificates of occupancy.

The Selectboard told members of the Historical Society this week that they cannot hold public programs in any of the Pitt House buildings without occupancy permits, and they must submit a written proposal for an action plan for improvements, along with a funding plan.

Meanwhile, the Selectboard is exploring whether the town could sell the property, which was left to the town in a will, to be used by the Historical Society as its headquarters and as a town history museum. The Selectboard began to discuss selling it, after learning from an engineering report that needed repairs for all the buildings could cost between $84,000 to $120,000.

Selectmen have asked town counsel to discuss the issue with the Attorney General’s Office before the town makes any formal request from the attorney general.

For the 25-year-old Stacy Barn, where public programs are held, needed improvements include lighted “Exit” signs above the doors, two fire extinguishers, an emergency light that goes on during power outages, and a wheelchair-access ramp with a crushed stone access path that will cost about $14,000, according to an estimate received by the Historical Society.

The historical board will have to raise money to cover those costs, but first the board wants to know that the town won’t sell the property, says Belden Merims. “We would not spend that money to make these additions on a building that may be sold out from under us,” she said.

The barn was built about 25 years ago and named for Helen Stacy, who donated the money for it to be built. It has been used to store some of the largest items in the society’s collection and has served as an assembly hall for programs, seating at least 40 people.

The canceled programs included four programs and an art show/fundraiser that featured artwork of Colrain scenes and works by Colrain artists. When asked why the Historical Society didn’t move those programs to other sites, Merims said other locations “are just not the same.” She said the society’s collection often inspires the programs, and those items are convenient for the presentations. “It’s a perfect place for us to meet, and the (Colrain Central) school is not,” she said.

The next scheduled program, for Thursday, June 14, has been canceled. Merims said the Historical Society will be meeting on Sunday, June 10, to discuss its options.