Volunteers work to restore Dunbarton Town Hall and theater
Some projects are just too big for one person, but put together a volunteer team and you might be able to rebuild the world.
The Dunbarton Town Hall and Theatre Restoration Project Committee began in 2009 and is headed by Tiffany Dodd. The old Town Hall currently houses the town library, but the staircase and upstairs theater had not been used in decades. Dodd knew people in town who had performed on that stage as children, and had heard stories about the many ways the town took advantage of the space in years gone by.
“I started talking to a lot of local folks, to find out their passion about this building,” Dodd said.
Dodd has been actively working on the Town Hall Project now for five years. As project chairman, she’s been giving history tours of the second floor during Old Home Day each year. She’s created a display that she brings to Town Meetings and has been working with the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and the Dunbarton Historical Society to assure the accuracy of the restoration. While doing all this, she’s serving on the Historical Awareness Committee and volunteers planting daffodils with the Garden Club.
Committee member Travis James said Dodd is a driving force for the project.
“She’s a great leader,” said James. “She’s definitely taking us in the right direction.”
James recently relocated from Maine, and he joined the committee hoping to meet his new neighbors. He found out quickly enough that one committee membership will lead to three, and is now serving on the Dunbarton Planning Board and the Website Development Committee.
“People see your talents and you get pulled in,” said James. “I want to make a contribution.”
Selectman Ted Vallieres serves as the project’s treasurer and laughs about James.
“The only reason we let him join our club is because he’s a computer geek!”
It’s true, James created the busy Town Hall Restoration Facebook page where residents and former residents now living far from home can follow the project and stay current with the complicated process.
One example of the work involved for the Committee would be the selection of the architect. After accepting 11 proposals, they decided to interview four. However, first they needed to understand the issues such as ADA compliance and building codes.
“We went to seminars, we had people come to our meetings and we went to theirs,” said Vallieres.
“It was grueling,” said James. “We spent a considerable amount of time selecting the architect.”
Vallieres said he joined the committee because he saw the preliminary sketch and thought the project would be a good fit for his skills.
“I had a lot more free time when I was working than I do now that I’m retired,” Vallieres said, laughing.
Everyone involved in the Restoration Committee has a history of community service. Les Hammond is currently a selectman, Jon Wiggin is the town’s fire chief. Also serving on the committee is Dunbarton PTO President Shelley Westenberg, who is the project secretary; and Margaret Watkins, the committee vice chairman.
Watkins has served on the Dunbarton Conservation committee for 27 years, is the town representative to the Regional Planning Commission, was a founding member of the Recycling Committee and served on the Commercial Zoning Committee.
It is Watkins who has the grant writing experience that the project requires.
“It’s like a dance – you need to know all the steps,” said Dodd. “Margaret leads us through.”
The original goal for completion was 2015 as part of the Dunbarton Centennial Celebration. That means this committee still has another three years of meetings and paperwork.
But committee members don’t see that as a challenge.
“Getting involved has provided me with the opportunity to get acquainted with fellow residents in a way that would not be available if not for this project,” said Dodd. “When everyone comes to the table willing to work hard and offer their own unique resources and talents, it is amazing what we can accomplish. It is a really good feeling and I would encourage others to seek out volunteer opportunities.”
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