A Batty Decision

I’d like to take a look at the GASD’s recent decision to shutter the Walter Elwood Museum.

From what’s been reported in the Gazette here and here, we’ve learned:

1) The decision was unanimous

2) The decision was unexpected

3) The decision was justified as (quoted from Gazette):

Perillo said the concerns varied from problems with the roof, bricks falling from the chimney and a bat problem, something Perillo said the district has been struggling with for a while.

Perillo said Peconie’s concerns included the fact that the bats were beginning to come down from the attic.

“The board didn’t want to take chances, so for the concern of the museum’s staff, and the students and children, we decided to close the building for health and safety reasons,” Perillo said.

Perillo said the district “knows the value of the museum for our students and for this community,” but doesn’t anticipate making repairs to the building so that the museum can resume operations there.

I’d like to take issue with the inherent contradictions in the bold-type statements above.

First, if the district had been aware of this for a while as Perillo claims, why did they choose to do nothing to remediate the problem? Clearly the district as the lessor to the museum bears the responsibility for maintaining the property and ostensibly to assure the safety of staff and students. Isn’t the district responsible for degrading the property to the point where it’s an urgent public health and safety issue?

Second, if the district knows the value of the museum to the community then why choose not to do anything but shut the museum down? Why not consider even for a few minutes a way to address the issue without shutting the museum down? Why not even give a 30 or 60 day notice so the museum board and supporters can at least plan their next move? It’s an implausible argument to state to care about something while at the same time doing absolutely nothing to keep it alive.

THe bottom line is that the district board and superintendent once again display an amazing arrogance in dealing with the stakeholders in their community. Whether you support the museum or not, the Walter Elwood Museum plays a significant part in the heritage of our community; from its collections, its community events and the architectural significance of the building itself. To casually shutter the museum and to then abdicate any responsibility to the museum and to the larger community for its continued survival is simply shocking.

So once again the district will leave a building to blight another neighborhood. Even worse, the district gives the museum board and staff no viable options for continuing the operations or funding for the museum in the short term. Finally the district also uproots the Natural Method Yoga studio whose owner, Laura Osborne,  advocates tirelessly for our community and who had recently moved her studio into the museum.  How’s that for community relations with our small business community : “Get off and F-off!”. And we wonder why it’s hard to get people behind the community or the district or entice businesses to locate here? Thanks GASD.

Once again I question the process and deliberation that went into this decision by the district. And once again I’d expect that there was neither.

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