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Selectmen Put Avery Art Center Vote on Hold

The board will take time to evaluate the proposal.

There is plenty of work to be done to get the current transformed into - but that work won't begin just yet.

The Dedham Board of Selectmen held off Thursday evening from voting on the recommendtaion given to them from the Avery Reuse Committee until they can study it more, chairman Jim MacDonald said.

"It is a lot to digest," MacDonald said. "There is a lot in here. I agree with the premise [...] but I think that this is the beginning."

The board and Avery Reuse chairman Joe Heisler acknowledged the vast amount of work in front of them, but MacDonald said he wanted the selectmen to make sure they understand how the Reuse Committee envisions the center coming together.

"The last thing anybody in the world wants is for that building to stay vacant," MacDonald said. "We have to make sure that those within the community respect the property."

The recommendation calls for the creation of a non-profit entity that would lease the school from the town, and then operate the center. The project couldn't move forward without a non-profit group in place as the town wouldn't be able to financially support an arts and community center, MacDonald said.

Heisler stressed that their plan would require little to no support for the arts center, and the town is seeking grants to pay for a feasibility study.

The results of that study and the full plan, if approved by selectmen, would then need a vote from Town Meeting in May.

Selectmen have until February 3 to recommend a use for the school in order for it to get onto the Town Meeting warrant.

Committee members used examples of historic buildings-turned-arts centers in Milton and in Concord to formulate their plan.

After 11 months of discussion, Heisler admitted an arts center didn't come to mind , but he credited selectman Paul Reynolds for taking the lead.

"I appreciate people saying that the Mother Brook Arts and Community Center was my idea, but really all I was doing was putting a label on what people were telling us," Reynolds said.

To get a non-profit started and ready to take control of an arts and community center is a tall aspiration, but Reynolds said the community is ready to go to work to make it a reality.

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