Art League to appeal to Millsboro council over building repairs

The president of the Greater Millsboro Art League will go before the Millsboro Town Council again on Monday, Oct. 7, asking that monthly rent paid to the Town for housing the league be waived indefinitely, in exchange for repairs made to the aging building — and this time she is bringing reinforcements.

“People who come here and support the art league said they would be there at the town council meeting. Kids who participate in Family Fun Night will speak. I hope we get a good turnout. I’m digging my heels in,” Deb Doucette said about not paying the $550 monthly rent.

The lease agreement with the Town is listed as an agenda item for the meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

Doucette spoke at the September council meeting, asking that the rent be waived, and was asked to provide council members with a list of repair costs and details. She delivered that list to town hall a few days later.

“I know $550 a month is not a high rent, but I want the Town to forego that $6,600 a year because I believe the value of the art league is worth far more than that,” she said.

“I’m very persistent. This town had no crosswalks until I persisted. If the Town says no, then we’ll hand in the bills every time we make repairs to something in here. There’s only one way to look at it. The building, as it stands, is not rentable to a new tenant.

“If we stay here and keep the building clean and presentable, I see that as fair until the Town does major improvements,” she said.

Doucette is determined to keep the building — located at 203 Main Street — open, but it needs doors rehung, both windows and the roof replaced, a new ramp for the handicapped, and the basement, where the foundation is composed of old tree trunks, upgraded.

A heavy door at the entranceway “came off in my hands,” Doucette said. Termites had to be exterminated, and the basement is “like a dungeon,” she described.

Although the Town bought, and had installed, new heating and air conditioning wall units, total renovation was assessed at more than $400,000, and that money wasn’t approved by the town council.

In the 2018 fiscal year, the Town allocated $15,000 for the air conditioning units.

Quotes were obtained to determine the cost to renovate and council members considered it, said Town Manager Sheldon Hudson, “but it never made it into the final discussion.”

In the 2019 fiscal year, renovation was a listed item in the budget, again talked about, but not funded.

Town officials “certainly are interested in preserving whatever historical buildings it owns, or are privately owned, in downtown to the extent that it is reasonable to do so, and the art league has historical significance,” Hudson said.

Doucette, who owns D&D Stained Glass in Millsboro, with her husband, David, has asked council members to visit, see displays and attend events the way Councilman James Kells and Millsboro Police Chief Brian Calloway have.

The art league, with an annual budget of about $12,000, is run strictly by volunteers, and more are needed — especially those skilled in making repairs. Members are welcome. The cost of an annual individual membership is $35, and it costs $45 for a household membership.

 

By Susan Canfora

Staff Reporter