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Former school could become a class act

The future of Millerton Elementary School (MES), no longer used by the Webutuck Central School District and currently leased for partial use by the North East Community Center (NECC), is in question. That question is laced with possibilities — possibilities the town of North East and the village of Millerton are smartly beginning to investigate for their own potential use.

The subject was raised at last Monday’s Town Board organizational meeting, when school board President Dale Culver confirmed the district is interested in working with both municipalities to investigate the possibility of them acquiring the building. The town and village are forming a committee to look into the matter, which has been the subject of community conjecture for a number of years.

The idea, while not spanking new, is worth exploring. The 25,000-square-foot building could easily become home to the Town and Village halls, both of which could use more space than their current abodes offer. If accomplished, the Village Hall, on Dutchess Avenue, and Town Hall, on Maple Avenue, could both return to the tax rolls, something few taxpayers would likely argue against. Not only that, but having centralized locations for both municipal buildings would provide citizens easier access for town and village services and could perhaps streamline government offices.

Then there are the opportunities for other entities, like the North East Community Center, which provides numerous services and programs for town and village residents, to move into the Millerton Elementary School building. Already NECC offers summer camp at MES, as well as GED preparatory classes throughout the year. It leases three classrooms from the school district at the moment to provide those services. It is currently hoping to lease a fourth room, if federal funding comes through for an educational/work-training program for young adults, which the community center will learn by next month (for more on that program and other possible uses for the Millerton Elementary School building, turn to Page A1). Either way, MES would be an ideal satellite location for NECC (which has its main location on South Center Street in Millerton). NECC Executive Director Jenny Hansell said the center would make great neighbors for the Town and Village halls, given the opportunity. We agree. The combination just makes sense and could finally provide a larger, all-encompassing community center for the whole town.

But there’s no need to stop there. If feasible, other groups and organizations could try to make the move to the former school as well. Some suggestions worthy of fleshing out include the senior/nutrition center, now housed adjacent to Village Hall; the police department, now above Village Hall; or a new substation for the New York State Police or Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office (this could take some wrangling but would be worth the effort). Dutchess Community College and BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services) have also expressed interest in establishing satellite classrooms at MES in the past, which would be of huge service to the local population. Regional groups like The 14th Colony (an artists’ collective) have also stepped forward as possible renters at the historic building.

The possibilities are endless and they are exciting. The time for exploring such ideas is now, so let’s hope the Town and Village boards don’t drag their feet. Webutuck needs to unload the building, which is a lovely, old building the area should work to preserve rather than allow to wither into a state of total disrepair. Not only should Millerton Elementary be conserved, it should be utilized, maximized and celebrated — it has so much potential — let’s hope that it is taken full advantage of.

 

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