News Column

Willington seeks preservation grant for Mill Works

July 8, 2014

By Eli Freund, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.

July 08--WILLINGTON -- Facing a tight deadline, the Mill Works and the Friends of the Mill Works, a group dedicated to preserving the facility, got approval from the board of selectman to apply for a $50,000 preservation grant.

The grant, which is called the "Vibrant Community Initiative," is a grant provided by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. The Connecticut Trust, which is a nonprofit chartered by the Connecticut General Assembly, provides grants aimed at preserving historically significant sites.

The funds, which are controlled and administered by the municipality, are valued at up to $50,000.

Mill Works owner Tom Buccino said, if received, grant dollars will help preserve the historic district of South Willington.

"South Willington has such a rich history with the former Gardiner Hall Jr. Company and the fact that Main Street used to run through the south part of Willington," Buccino said. "What we're looking to do with this grant is have a study done to inventory of all the historic aspects of that part of town and then to target the Mill Works as a cultural destination."

The grant, according to its description, is aimed at "vibrant communities," which are those that " mix historic buildings with a variety of cultural, commercial/retail and natural resources, and that the preservation of these assets can lead to the revitalization of downtown."

Buccino said the Mill Works and the Friends of the Mill Works are prepared to assist the town in completing all the necessary paperwork to complete the project, although the deadline to be considered is getting closer and closer.

"The only problem that we're facing is our tight deadline," Buccino said. "The deadline is July 15 and that's coming in really soon."

According to the description of the grant, applications are due by July 15 at 4 p.m. at the CT Trust offices in Hamden in order to be considered.

At the board of selectmen meeting Monday night, selectmen voted to go through with the application.

They were only concerned about the next step.

Willington First Selectman Christina B. Mailhos said the next steps will be more complicated.

"For now, there's no harm in applying for the grant," Mailhos. "After, if we are awarded the grant, the next step would be to go to a town meeting in order to accept the grant.

The town -- which is not obligated to commit the funds to the Mill Works, but has control over where they're distributed -- can aim to give the funds to the Mill Works.

Buccino said the money would aid in helping a building that has been a symbol of the old Willington.

" The Mill Works is really a historically significant building in the town," Buccino said. "It really symbolizes the historic area of south Willington and this would be a good step in the right directions for other grants to help maintain and revitalize this building."

But one of the concerns selectmen had at the meeting was not limiting themselves to just the Mill Works, but to other historic places in South Willington.

Willington Historical Society President Bob Shabot said there are many places in the area that could be included in the study.

"We can't only include the Mill Works in this study. It needs to include all the other historic places surrounding the building," Shabot said. "You have the Hall Mansion and the two-story barn near there that are all historic aspects that made up that village."

For now, because of the approval from the board, the application will be filed and the Mill Works, Friends of the Mill Works and the board of selectmen will wait to hear if they will be selected.

If selected, the acceptance of the grant will be put to a town meeting slated for Aug. 5 at 7 p. m. at the town office buildings.


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