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Selectmen Ask Fundraising Plan of Ambler Farm

With about half of $1.9 million needed from the town of Wilton to complete its renovations, Ambler Farm will have to show the Board of Selectmen that it can do its part to raise money before Wilton commits.

The Raymond-Ambler Farm House should be ready by late 2013 or early 2014, with the hope to provide an interactive gateway to Wilton’s past—if gets monetary support from its donors and Wilton taxpayers.

Friends of Ambler Farm’s President Neil Gluckin and its treasurer James Barker presented to the town at during last Tuesday’s Board of Selectman (BoS) meeting at with an introductory asking-for of about $900,000 from the town to complete its $1.9 million renovation project. Ultimately, they would have to come back to the BoS with a fundraising plan before the BoS would consider their monetary request.

The Raymond-Ambler-House is being renovated in two phases, and phase one, an estimated cost of $970,000 is about 80-percent complete. When completed, Barker said that the historic site would serve educational and community purposes, where “you can touch and feel and experience the past.”

 Most of the repairs have to do with the rear portion of the house. While the effort to fund the project is cooperative between town and private donors, Gluckin said they wanted to take a cautious approach in asking for donations.

“We don’t want to over-commercialize the farm. We don’t want people to, every time they come near the property, ‘hit’” for money said Gluckin. “We know there are other organizations in town that need to raise money too and we need to be sensitive to that. And we need to be sensitive about asking for help how we are to be perceived.” He said that support from the town would be a strong vote of confidence from the town which would help propel more donations from Wiltonians.

Gluckin noted that Ambler Farm membership increased from 189 to 305 members in the last year, and that donations had doubled from $20,000 to $40,000 as well. 

The crux of the argument for not jumping to fund Ambler Farm without more information came from Selectman Hal Clark, who believed Ambler Farm needed a comprehensive fund-raising plan.

Without more private funding, Clark said, “it becomes a public effort, and I’m not sure that’s fair to the community. If this is something the community supports and supports strongly, we need evidence and real detailed plan about how you’re going to raise $250,000 or $500,000. With all due respect, we haven’t seen a million-dollar fundraising plan or $500,000 fundraising plan from you. After we see that, I think it’s realistic to say then, ‘Ok it’ll be time for the town to contribute additional [funds].”

Gluckin said that they were in the middle of creating a plan, but that it wouldn’t change the fact that Ambler Farm would require town funding for its renovation.

First Selectman William Brennan said that while it was a good time to borrow and contract, the town had to vet a proposed $5.4 million bonded capital request while also trying to “keep taxes down.” Brennan suggested the farm create a fundraising for $125,000 each year over four years or $250,000 each year for two years rather than a lump sum of $500,000.

Gluckin again stressed that simply getting a funding commitment from the town would send a positive message to Ambler Farm and its donor community, regardless of the time frame.

“It’s really that we can say, ‘The town of Wilton believes in the growth potential of this property,’” said Gluckin. “You have a right to expect a commitment from us if we come here asking for a commitment from you.”

Brenna said that all involved should be keeping an eye open for grants as well.

Ambler Farm reps left under the agreement that they would propose a fund-raising plan to the town in the future.

 

Amo Probus January 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM
Private donations are the preferred approach to funding numerous efforts in Town. For example, Miller - Driscoll's 40-50 million dollar proposal should be partially funded by private donations. Instead on naming buildings, rooms etc for public employees, naming rights should be 'auctioned' off to private contributors and these contributions should be tax deductible. It works for stadiums, hospitals and Universities and should work here. There are folks in town who would be willing to fund the construction of a classroom etc. in exchange for a plaque over the door with the family name etc. Donate millions and have the school re-named to recognize your generous contribution. Same applies to Ambler, art centers, Comstock etc. My grandfather donated his money and skills to build a wing on a school and it was named after him, a source of lifetime pride for him.
Lorna January 20, 2012 at 04:38 PM
The Ambler House should be turned into a high-end B&B. There is no lodging in Wilton, and it's already in a commercial zone, with Rolling Hills Country Club next door. If the Ambler House could be renovated accordingly and available to overnight guests, it would be a very appealing location special events, especially taking advantage of the White Barn's kitchen and space, generating rental income for that, too. I think if the number of vehicles permitted were limited, as well as the hours for celebrations, plus the requirement of a security deposit, the Ambler House could be a gem for fostering memories and producing income, without being a detriment to the neighborhood and interfering with Ambler Farm's mission to cultivate, educate and serve. I don't see how simply renovating the home to be turned into a museum of sorts will be financially self-sustaining. Its appeal on that basis would be limited at best.
LAF February 24, 2012 at 04:01 PM
The above idea of a B & B is really interesting! Don't think the town should be funding Ambler's renovations, when the town has other problems/projects that need funds. It's a wonderful place, events generate income and volunteers are fabulous workers--get those kids off their computers and into the fields & gardens! BTW: aren't our taxes already part of it's sustaining budget?

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