Reproduced in part from the Wellington Times’ article of July 28, 2017, this account provides information leading up to the formation of the SPTH group.
The proposal prompted concerns among user groups and residents. Picton councillor Lenny Epstein held a town hall meeting at the town hall about its future on Thursday evening. About 80 people attended, and about a third of those were not residents of the town of Picton. They represented a variety of regular user groups of the hall, those with interest in improved usage of the hall and those who feel the building is an integral part of the community.
All were opposed to the town hall being sold privately.
“We’re a not-for-profit, and this is pretty much the only building in the County that we can really hold our workshops. It’s the only one we can afford at a not-for-profit price,” said PEC Chamber of Commerce’s Emily Cowan. “It is, as far as I know, the only place for a not-for-profit to afford a workshop. This is the biggest town, the biggest population, and it makes sense to have something here.”
Many user groups concurred, with a few stating outright that the alternative spaces suggested by the County are too expensive, and that without the hall, they would have to disband. These included the bridge club, Tai Chi association and Scottish Dancers.
Rebecca Sweetman, a farmer with experience in not for- profit administration, has begun an initiative to bring a year-round farmers’ market into the firehall. Sweetman brought that idea to council in May. She invited anyone interested in forming a board of management to speak to her. It would be an option that fit the County’s criteria to allow an alternative community use.
“I feel like an amazing building like this, that’s a community centre, should have community participation in all aspects of its work, and there’s no reason why a group of us couldn’t get together and put together a proposal that would demonstrate to the County very appropriate use, week-round, so that the building is continually occupied,” says Sweetman. “It was strongly suggested to me that the board of management idea would go over really well.”
Epstein encouraged those concerned to attend Tuesday’s council meeting, and to speak during an opportunity for public comment. Some members of the group also created a Facebook page called Save Picton Town Hall, and those interested in participating can visit that page.
Although they were invited, other than Epstein, there were no representatives from either County council or staff.