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My last letter [March 28, “Slow Down”] urged the town to take a more holistic approach to programming Academy, coordinating town services, managing capital, and reallocating unproductive town assets for capital funding. Not only do we need to consider program, costs, and funding, but we also need to optimize town space utilization. According to town assessors’ records, the square footage of the offices at the Town Campus is 22,590, the Arts Barn is 7,955, Town Campus Gym is 13,328, and the Guilford Community Center is 22,652. These spaces total 66,525 square feet.
In 2012, I chaired the Ad Hoc Academy Investigatory Committee. In our September 2012 report, the committee presented an alternative idea that the Memorial Town Hall be restored to its original grandeur as an auditorium/theater/memorial for Madison’s Bicentennial in 2026 and, combined with Academy, would bring government back to the Green. Memorial Town Hall, Lee Academy, and the Powder House total 9,037 square feet and with Academy create more than 68,000 square feet of space. The functions above fit.
We have built the Senior Center; the Strong Center is designed for sports and community space; and the new library adds significant community space. I do not think another community space more than twice the size of Guilford’s will be effectively utilized. Reprogramming the Academy/Memorial Town Hall area creates the opportunity to accomplish all goals—better programs, improved space utilization, controlled operating costs, and a funding source to help pay for it.
The push to bring more activity to downtown by revitalizing Academy is the right goal. I fear this independent Academy decision will either fail or create an unsustainable cost burden for the town. Let’s not allow this public momentum for change and a terrific opportunity die by isolating the Academy decision process.
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