ADAMS -- A discussion about Adams Visitors Center dominated annual town meeting Tuesday night and provided members and officials an opportunity to put forth their visions of the town's future.
The warrant article, recommending the spending of $80,000 to take down several interior walls and broaden the space on the ground floor, was initially held by George Haddad, of the fifth precinct.
In his address, Haddad advocated striking the expense in favor of assessing private interest in the building before the town takes ownership of it.
"Before we make a decision of that magnitude, we should know the value so we can make a conscious decision as a community on what the building's future should be," Haddad said.
Haddad identified the center as the only town building "conducive to private interest" and suggested it as a revenue source to help fund repairs at the Greylock Glen, which he framed as a make-or-break investment to factor significantly into the town's future.
"At some point down the road, we're going to have to belly up to the table with money to keep this project moving," Haddad said, while complimenting officials on their efforts so far in securing grants to fund the repairs in part.
The challenge allowed Town Administrator Jonathan Butler to speak of his view of the space -- having the potential to be a "true town center" and a "jumping off point for all the town's businesses."
"This project is
In Butler's view, the center is the linchpin to the town's three-building issue, also involving Memorial School and the Community Center on East Street.
Butler and town government agreed on the solution of marketing the Community Center and moving the Council on Aging to Adams Visitors Center, while working toward a reuse for Memorial School.
Additionally, Butler said he sees the visitors center as a future host to a multitude of town events, advertising for the town's businesses and its defining places, meetings and, potentially, voting.
"What's never been determined is what the true value of it is to us," Butler said. "That's what we want to take the next couple of years to figure out."
He said town seniors "deserve" the space downtown, arguing the strong condition and modern accessible design, as opposed to a Community Center badly in need of repairs. This argument makes the building a natural choice for the move, he said. He added that the $80,000 in improvements will "enhance the building's value," and establishing it as a town center help rebrand the town's identity to recreation -- frequently cited by officials as a major goal.
Selectman Scott Nichols called the expense "a small amount to pay for something that is going to benefit the seniors and the community."
Haddad's amendment was voted down by a margin of roughly 65 percent of town meeting members and the warrant article was subsequently approved as written.
The town's $13 million fiscal 2013 budget was unanimously approved at the meeting, and members moved to allot a $10,000 expense for the construction of a pavilion on Bowe Field from free cash.
The meeting saw 100 of 150 total town meeting members attend, a turnout member Starr Baker called "disappointing for such an important meeting." Twelve new members were welcomed to the body.
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