In Press

Pierce emphasizes ‘community’ in solutions to Thorne Building issues

[Reprinted from]

Northern Dutchess News & Creative Living

Volume 9, Issue 30
July 26 – August 1, 2017
Page 6

by Mary Keelan

The energy, openness and enthusiasm for the Thorne Building Planning Committee conveyed by its Chair, Charles E. Pierce Jr., in a brief telephone interview this past weekend augurs well for the success of the project.

His dedication to the cause was manifest. He had just returned home after a long drive down from Maine in order to prepare for the first meeting of the Thorne Building Planning Committee, scheduled for Monday, July 24.

No question seemed to daunt him. Reflecting the consensus of many involved with the project, Pierce said that “this is a project whose time has come for this community.” It was obvious he knows th challenges are many and the solutions not yet articulated.

Chairman Pierce believes the process is well launched and the “approximate six months” timeline realistic. Much was achieved in the three or four preliminary workshops last winter and spring, as well as with smaller brainstorming meetings. He mentioned that he and Oakleigh Thorne had been talking about the Thorne Building problems for a couple of years. When the new Mayor, Rodney Brown, was installed in January 2017, he also announced that solving the issues with the Thorne Building was a priority of his term in office.

The first meeting at the beginning of this week was devoted to “reviewing what we have done” with the newly appointed 15 members of the committee, the diverse makeup of which Pierce lauded.

At least 10 different local constituencies are represented. “Some participated in the workshops and others will need to be briefed on where we are to date,” he said. Pierce will announce the formation and preliminary approval of a 501.c3 not for profit organization to be called the Thorne Building Community Center. One reason for the creation of this separate legal entity was “that (at least) two earlier entities under the auspices of the Village had failed” in their attempts to resolve issues with the Thorne Memorial Building. It also positions the group with a mechanism for purchase of the building if such is warranted.

Throughout the interview, Pierce referred to the role of the community, emphasizing the efforts planned to secure their opinions. “We will be holding well-announced public hearings to learn of the public’s views,” he said. “What does the area want? What will enrich the Village and surrounding community? How do they respond to the broad stroke presentation of a proposal?”

The Planning Committee has already contracted with a consultant, who will conduct community-wide interviews and with the John C. Waite Associates, an architectural firm which evaluated the Thorne Memorial Building needs and cost estimates in 2003. The Planning Committee will build on that earlier feasibility report to develop a plan on “how to use the building, how to restore it, how to adapt it to new uses.”

When asked how the Committee planned to finance all of this, given that the estimate in 2003 was between $3-5 million, Pierce did not hesitate, again emphasizing the role of the entire community in the process and solutions.

“Let’s actually find out what it is going to cost, and when that is known, appeal to the entire community,” he said. He speculated that “some can make modest contributions and other monies will come from the wealthier.” At the same time, Pierce did not ignore the need to plan for sustainability.

If one word dominated the interview it was “the community,” a presence Pierce is extremely conscious of attending to, constantly keeping up to date with progress, “the broad strokes.”

Characterizing the Planning Committee, he almost affectionately quipped, “Once more with feeling a group will do something.” And the sense was that this time they would succeed.