Blenheim Long Term Recovery Committee Re-Cap

Submitted by local resident Gail Shaffer

BLENHEIM  Long – Term Recovery Committee

Date:   September 10, 2019    From:   Gail Shaffer, Chair

Re:   Meeting Thursday, September 19, 2019, 10 am , at BlenheimTown Hall

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Summer’s over…..   so we are resuming our regular meeting schedule !

First of all, Special Thanks to everyone who helped make our Blenheim Bridge Dedication a success in June.   It was a lot of work, so we all deserved our summer respite from meetings.

Hard to believe that the summer is already winding down… But, the autumn weather is already kicking in, the leaves are changing, the birds are starting to migrate, and the kids are back in school….     Hope all y’all had a great summer.

We have lots on our plate to think about as we shift back into gear.   Here are a few Agenda items we will be discussing.

Tourism Promotion / Special Guest will be attending our meeting:

Erynne Ansel-McCabe is spearheading the new Schoharie County tourism promotion initiative. She would like our input from Blenheim’s perspective, and this should be a real opportunity to advance our priorities.

It’s great that she is reaching out to the towns in the southern part of the county, as so often we have felt left out in the past. The county has totally restructured its tourism program (previously contracted out to the Chamber of Commerce, with disappointing results). So this is a real opportunity to turn a new leaf and revitalize these efforts with a fresh approach. This is part of the launching of the county’s new over-all economic development plan, of which tourism is a key dimension.

We look forward to a good discussion, and to sharing our long-term vision as developed in our recovery plan for Blenheim with Erynne, and exploring how we can all work together with our neighboring towns to maximize tourism for the county.

*Thanks to Don, who has been championing our interests in the new Tourism initiatives. We appreciate all his efforts.

The Schoharie Valley Scenic / Historic Trail

Bernie has been representing Blenheim in the discussions about this interesting project which we hope will be a great asset.   They are now discussing development of a regional (multi-town) grant proposal to advance the trail as a significant component of the county’s newly reconfigured Tourism Promotion initiative. Our participation in this could become a great vehicle, for Blenheim’s interest, to realize our goal of creating a walkway connecting the covered bridge to the west bank of Route 30 as part of our Greenway concept.

We need to identify whatever historic, cultural, scenic, and recreational assets we wish to highlight in Blenheim for this project.

Bernie will be sharing more about this.

*Thanx to Bernie for being our representative on this project.

Blenheim Community Center

We did have a special meeting recently to discuss a proposal for doing some work to stabilize the condition of the exterior of our Blenheim Community Center.   For those who were able to attend, there was a consensus that the proposal from one specific contractor, from among several quotes that were solicited, was by far the best one. In addition to scraping and painting the exterior and the roof, he would also repair the belfry, and his cost estimate was favorable even with this extra work beyond the original scope.

Phyllis is going back to him with a few questions we wanted to clarify, but, provided the answers are reasonable and his quote remains favorable, it looks like we would be moving to cut a deal with this contractor speedily, as it would be desirable to do this work now, before another winter sets in. We will discuss this and answer any questions. We also may pursue some partial funding from the town, which owns and insures the building, to supplement funds we have raised from our flea-market sales.

*Thanks to both Phyllis & Renee for pursuing this by getting multiple quotes from the contractors, and in a timeframe which will help us to show real improvements before the onset of winter.

*Phyllis also did a great job creating our Little Free Library at the BCC — Thanx so much !

* Also, Thanks to our committee members who continue to staff the BCC week-end flea-market. Phyllis, Renee, Carole, Bill and I are the regulars. A couple of our vendors also pitch in, and Ashley Jackson volunteers as well. We appreciate all your volunteer help, and can always use more volunteers — and more donations from your attics !

Parsonage

The issue of the Parsonage acquisition remains stalled, as the seller’s attorney has continued to be unresponsive.   Hopefully this will eventually proceed as planned. Again, we know that Don has tried assiduously to move this forward, but the ball is in their court and we hope they will respond….   You’d think they’d want to close & get their proceeds … Oy vez !!

Blenheim Covered Bridge Kiosks

The four kiosks, mounted on pedestals, will soon be installed at the Covered Bridge, to describe for visitors the history of the original bridge, its devastation by Hurricane Irene, and the reconstruction of our new replacement bridge.

*Liz and I worked together to develop both the narrative text and the photo & sketch images for these kiosks — with the final approval of the full committee.   Special thanks to Liz for all her work on this — especially the images, which she assembled single-handedly.

Next we may develop a brochure about the bridge, for visitors to take. Also, we’re discussing a visitors’ sign-in book, to give us an idea of how many visitors come, and how far-flung they are geographically, as well as feedback.

School House Museum

*Profuse thanks to both Liz & Ralph for all they have done regarding the Schoolhouse Museum — not only sprucing it up for the big celebration, but all the ongoing work on the building, the artifacts, and reorganizing and preserving the archives.

Several other committee members have pitched in as well, and we will continue to do so with Liz’s direction as the plans for the museum evolve.

Signage

*We are so lucky to have Ralph’s artistic talent as a great asset — not only for the big Dedication day, but in all the beautiful, professional signage he has done for our various projects, from the bridge to the BCC to the Town Hall sign, to the fishing access site. Many thanx!

Art Walk

We have often mentioned that, once we get the official dedication behind us, we would like to focus on reviving the annual Art Walk on the Covered Bridge — hopefully starting next year. This will involve a lot of planning, so we need to start discussing it now. Bring your ideas to the table, especially Renee & Don, who have masterminded this event in the past with great success. We need to be aware of all the factors we need to consider.

Highway Crew

I can’t say enough about all the help that Dave Mattice and our Highway crew give to our efforts. They did a lot to help with the Bridge dedication day. They also do a great job mowing and maintaining the BCC property, as well as the Schoolhouse Museum area. Not to mention their main focus of maintaining our roads & bridges generally…   They are terrific !

Additional Thanx…

As you know, Don, the gentleman who has managed our town’s solid waste disposal for a couple of decades, has retired due to severe health challenges. We had a nice reception for him at the Town Hall to thank him for his many years of service. Renee organized it, set up tables and made coffee, Phyllis baked enough cookies for an army, and Paul & Sherrie’s kids served lemonade.   Thanks to all of you for doing this.

This is just a preliminary agenda.   If I’ve overlooked something, feel free to bring up any other matters of interest.   Look forward to seeing everyone next Thursday !

 GAIL S. SHAFFER