Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 06-13-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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6 LINCOLN JUNE 13-19, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION in another nonprofit partner, called Landmark Trust USA, to manage a "historic vacation stay" with some public programming. Landmark's Susan McMahon said the question would be whether or not the model would work in Lincoln. A market analysis would be needed to determine just that, which would begin if and when the town expressed interest. For the last 30-plus years, the house has been maintained as a museum, open to the public for program- ming by the Friends of the Valentine Whitman House group, led by Pat Choiniere. While the town owns the house, Choiniere and other volunteers have worked to raise funds to put into the property and to fill it with period treasures. "Can we sustain as a historic house museum? Not without the town's backing," Choiniere said, slamming the town for its lack of financial sup- port over the years. "We've gone to the town and the budget board to ask for A, B and C and we can't even get past A." Talmage said the local dilemma is faced by historic house museums all across America that are struggling with deferred maintenance, aging boards and friends groups, and dwindling attendance. Put simply, Choiniere said, "they are a money pit." "We put Band-Aids on everything we could fix," she said of the volun- teer group. "The town has to real- ize they had a responsibility to this house." Growing emotional, Choiniere said she resents the town for "putting this on the back burner for so many years." Asked by a resident why the home was never maintained, Town Administrator Joe Almond said Lincoln has invested $285,750 since the date of purchase in 1991. "That's the cost of trying to hold onto a historical property," he said. "Repairs alone have cost $130,000." Almond said officials explored sev- eral funding options with the Budget Board over the years including retain- ing grants, but that Choiniere had "very little support" in doing so. Her group raised $8,000 in the last three years. Almond said the town feels a lot of pressure in looking after its collec- tion of historic properties, especially because there is no line-item in the budget for them. Councilor Arthur Russo said he informally inquired about Historic New England acquiring the house, but that there wasn't interest. When a member of the audience suggested that officials ask the Blackstone Valley Historical Society for help, a BVHS representative replied, "We have no money." So, what's next for the home at the corner of Great Road and Whalen Drive? Preserve R.I. has requested an answer from councilors by the end of June. Councilor Pamela Azar asked for more time to make a decision and explore the hard data. While it is an option to continue with the current ownership model, Talmage said, "realistically, we've identified $400,000 in needed repairs. The town will have to put something of that range into the property, and then plan to provide ongoing pro- gramming to maintain it." At the end of the day, Choiniere said she reluctantly supports the town passing ownership of the home to Preserve R.I. because she believes the group will take care of it and fix what needs to be fixed, something she has tried to do for the last three decades. "I feel better about Preserve R.I. owning the house because the town is not going to do anything and I'm sick of banging my head against the wall," she said. "We just hear, the town has no money, the town has no money, over and over and over again." Lincoln resident Christine Maino said, "It's going to cost $400,000 to rebuild this house and you have a company here willing to take this project on and help maintain the house in its integrity. If you don't do this now, we are going to have that building falling down. With no fund- ing plan, to lose Preserve R.I. taking on this project at this point would be a terrible disservice for the house." Resident Bonnie Taylor agreed, saying it would be great if the Budget Board had put money into the house, but that seeking any alternate route would add at least another year of degradation to the home. "Do what's right for the house and go with an agency with a good reputa- tion to take care of the house," she said. WHITMAN HOUSE From Page 5 The future of the historic VALENTINE WHITMAN HOUSE on Great Road in Lincoln is being discussed by the town and representatives of Preserve Rhode Island.

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