Jan. 4—BUCKFIELD — Saying decisions have to be made, Selectman Sandra Fickett said the town needs to determine the future of the Old Church on the Hill.
"A number of community members have reached out to me with concerns about the Old Church on the Hill," Fickett said. "What role does it function for the town? What's the cost to the town" What are our future plans? I think over the past few years, it's just kind of been this entity. Beautiful to look at, but it's just been in a holding pattern as far as use and maintenance."
She said many residents believe that upkeep of the historic structure should not be a burden for taxpayers.
The Old Church on the Hill, which was originally known as the Union Church and sometimes Union Chapel, was built as a Universalist church between 1831 and 1832. Located at 77 High St., it was built with the cooperation of other denominations, which shared services.
Featured prominently on the town's seal, the building was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
According to the application, the church "is an outstandingly handsome and well-proportioned example of a late Federal meetinghouse with transitional Gothic features. The 91-foot spire is regarded as a model of proportion and grace."
The town took ownership of the building around 1900. Since then, the structure has been used for town meeting space and even hosted basketball games in the 1950s. In recent years, the building has hosted concerts, weddings and public gatherings.
But the building has been largely vacant since the pandemic, with the town paying for electricity and insurance for it. It needs restoration work, and part of the debate is whether the town should consider a more expensive historic renovation or a more modest approach of making necessary repairs.
"Is this going to be a town asset that the town is financially responsible for, and if it is, how are we going to budget for it. Or is this not going to be a town asset anymore?" Fickett asked.
Fickett and Town Manager Cameron Hinkley urged residents to be passionate about the landmark, get involved and come up with a plan to either save the building or find an organization or group to take over its mission.
Hinkley blamed the pandemic for much of its woes, saying before then the building was largely self-sufficient.
The Select Board appointed Everett Tilton and Cory Nicholson to serve on the committee for the building.
In other business, Michael Iveson stepped down as board chairman, but will remain a member. Robert Hand was elected Chairman and Azalea Cormier will remain as vice chairperson.
The Community Day Committee had its name and mission changed to Community Events Committee to oversee all town events, not just the Labor Day celebration.
The board's next meeting, originally scheduled Tuesday, Jan. 17, was moved to Monday, Jan. 16, at 6:30 p.m. A workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m. to review the personnel policies and procedures handbook.