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.