Six years in the making: Bridgewater readies for Grange Hall vote Thursday

The Bridgewater Grange.

The Bridgewater Grange.

H John Voorhees III / Reporter

BRIDGEWATER — A six-year dispute in town is expected to be resolved in two days, with one vote. At 6 p.m. May 20, residents will be able to cast their vote about the future of Bridgewater Grange Hall — a historic landmark in town.

The vote will take place at the annual town meeting, held outside at the Pratt Pavilion, 2 Sarah Sanford Road East. Voter verification begins at 5 p.m.

The vote pertains to the ongoing dispute between the town and a group called The Bridgewater Preservation Association over whether the Grange should be renovated or torn down.

First Selectman Curtis Read said the building is not salvageable, and he would like it taken down and turned into a community center.

The town was awarded a Connecticut Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grant for $100,000 to demolish the Grange, excavate the oil contamination and develop detailed plans for a new building on the same site.

The only contingency is that the Connecticut Historic Commission and Attorney General’s office would have to allow this to happen, according to Read.

“The state and BPA group are insisting on a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote to sell the town’s asset with appropriate conditions for $1. We presume a ‘No’ vote would enable the town to control the future of our own property and release the state’s prohibition against demolition,” said a press release sent out by the town.

Lisa Burns, secretary of the BPA, said if the town agrees to sell the building to the Bridgewater Preservation Association, the selectmen will negotiate the final terms.

“So, it’s not a one and done,” Burns said. “We want to to work with the town on this.”

She added the building has been used for about 120 years as the home of the Bridgewater Grange — and therefore, has a long history in the town.

“It’s a building where farmers met to discuss crop prices. It was a meeting house, it was a school house, and it served as the town hall,” Burns said.

“We’re very excited to hear what the people have to say,” she added.