Committee hears possible building layout, budget for Decas building

Mar 30, 2022

Members of the Decas School Steering Committee heard possible plans for the old school building’s interior layout, a list of potential expenses and plans from a possible tenant during the committee’s Wednesday night meeting.

Clerk Jon Dallmeyer outlined a map proposal of how space within the Decas school building could be used by various town entities, residents and other organizations.

The future of the Decas school building is up for a vote at the upcoming Spring Town Meeting. Two articles related to the proposed Decas Community Center were submitted by lead petitioner Leslie Edwards Davis: One to allow the Decas Steering Committee to make a report to Town Meeting, and one that would authorize several actions related to making the community center a reality.

That petition asks for the town to grant the Decas Steering Committee and the recently formed John W. Decas Community Center Foundation access to the former Decas School building to help the town ready the building for occupancy. It further asks that the Council on Aging be moved into the school building by July 1, 2022, which was discussed at Wednesday night’s meeting.

If the entirety of the early education, after-school and flexible use spaces are rented within the building, he said, the building could be considered paid for. Other proposed areas within the building include space for the Council on Aging, a food pantry, adult educational space, an industrial kitchen and other small rental areas.

The cost to run the facility, Dallmeyer said, is estimated to be $3.50 per square foot per year. 

Expenses for running the building as a community center, which Dallmeyer presented after working with Town Administrator Derek Sullivan on to estimate costs, total to about $130,000 for fiscal year 2021.

Members also heard from a Wareham resident who’s newly expressed interest in creating an art studio space in the building, Cara Bean.

Bean, who said she moved to Wareham at the start of the pandemic to be with her parents, is an illustrator with more than a decade of art teaching experience in Lexington. She’s now working on a graphic novel that focuses on mental health, she said.

When she first moved to town, Bean saw a need.

“There isn’t enough art stuff going on,” she said Wednesday night.

Now, the idea of a community center could mean there’s space for Bean to operate a studio, where people of all ages could learn drawing or painting alongside her. She floated ideas like an after-school free art time, or giving lessons for adults and advanced students for a fee.

The committee members generally expressed support, and Dallmeyer praised Bean’s ideas.

“I think ... this is exactly the thing we’re trying to do with the community center,” he said.