My thoughts on the matter of the Pennell Institute must be read as coming from an outsider.

I have only lived in Gray for six years, and the battle over this building has been waging the whole time. However, I do have a couple of views on the matter.

I feel that the town should not be putting forth any plans for expansion let alone the one proposed. I choke on the price tag of this renovation of $2.4 million during a time when we citizens must make do with what we have.

Unless the current town office is going to collapse upon the heads of the employees, or that it is deemed unsafe or hazardous in some way, then I see no need to go ahead with a borrowing package at this time.

I could be wrong, but after reading the Town Office Village Concepts Report, it looked to me that the proposal is attempting to offset costs with the projected sales of some properties.

What that means to me is that unused town property being utilized as an offset has yet to be sold, but a value has been placed upon it. This sounds like counting one’s chickens before they hatch. If said property really is of the value associated to it then I must ask, why not sell it first, prior to embarking on this venture? I also have to look at the current real estate market and ask if the value being used is true, for we have all noticed of late the sharp decline in property values across the board.

I may not be an economic expert, but for me, this project is suspect. We recently passed a budget that will pay for the added expenditures in it by dipping into savings. Did the Council forget that? What I saw in that budget was a lack of prioritization pure and simple. How then, am I to believe this current proposal is needed rather than wanted?

I want many things; a new driveway, some land cleared and gardens put in, etc. I could take a loan to get these projects done but though I want these things I do not need them. The driveway will last another year or two, and the land isn’t going anywhere.

We are all being forced to prioritize our personal expenses and budgets. Retirement plans, 401Ks, investments have all taken a turn for the worse these past months is it not the same for the town?

I argue that buildings such as the Pennell Institute are of great importance in that they give a community a sense of depth and belonging. The history associated with not just the structure itself but of the town and its people helps foster a sense of community that is much needed in these modern times. I am loath to support the destruction of historical sites in the name of progress.

If it is possible for the Gray Historical Society to obtain a lease from the town to defer maintenance costs, then I say such an idea has great benefits to all parties involved. Costs can be reduced, and part of the community preserved. I do feel though, that if the historical society does obtain a low cost, long-term lease, it should take the opportunity to make the institute more accessible and friendly.

Allen R. Butler


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