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Windsor Locks Preservation Association Tells Selectmen They've Dissolved

The association members said they are frustrated by the town's lack of commitment to help save and the historic train station.

Members of the Windsor Locks Preservation Association on Tuesday told the board of selectmen Tuesday that frustrated by lack of progress with saving the town’s historic train station the organization has dissolved.

In a letter he presented to the selectmen, the association’s attorney Edward G. McAnaney said the organization considered many factors but its chief reason for dissolving was the town’s unwillingness to provide a letter to Amtrak declining the town’s interest in the station.

McAnaney said the association still wants the station restored and is willing to help the town in the effort. Members will provide the reports and assessments the organization has gathered to the town, he added. The association was formed in 2004 to restore the train station which has sat in disrepair for years.

Town officials said it’s not that they don’t support the group’s efforts but proposed wording in the letter would make it difficult for Windsor Locks to pursue having the current train platform moved to the downtown area. The letter refers to the historic building and the site.

Town Attorney Scott Chadwick said the word “site” is the problem. Because that implies the land around the historic station and Amtrak doesn’t want the two to overlap, he said.

“They asked for a letter we cannot give,” Chadwick said.

Patrick McMahon, the town’s economic development consultant, said the town wants to move the train platform, which is further south on Route 159, to the downtown area because it fits a vision of improving that area. Having the train platform there would would allow employees of business such Ahlstrom better commuting options as well as put more people in that area for other businesses.

McMahon said in its efforts the town has been dealing with Amtrak and the state Department of Transportation, and the requirements of both entities.

“There’s a vision,” McMahon said. “If we don’t move the train station back to the center, we won’t have that catalyst.”

Barbara Schley, co-founder of the association, said the members don’t care about the property, only saving the building.

Schley said she and members of the organization feel disappointed that they had to make the decision to dissolve. The organization accomplished a lot but feels it can’t do anymore.

“We are ending this with eight of 10 approvals from Amtrak,” Schley said.

McMahon said the town would be happy to accept any studies and assessments the association has in its possession.

First Selectman Steven N. Wawruck Jr. said each and every time the board of selectmen has said it will work with the association in its the efforts to save and restore the station. Wawruck said he thought the process was moving along and had no inkling until the association was dissolving until he started getting calls on Monday.

Wawruck said he and other town officials recently met with Amtrak and has been waiting for responses from that agency.

He and other town officials also met with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Monday andone of topics they discussed was moving the current train platform to the center of town, Wawruck said.

Kim H. March 16, 2011 at 10:50 AM
There's no doubt the building would be very nice, esp when compared with the half a$$ bus shelter they call a train stop that now exists, but even if the building is restored, would it have been used as a train stop really ? I think one would have to knock down that old yellow building nearby and do a lot of paving.....a lot of money and what gained ? I totally agree the downtown is a travesty, but having that station there I don't think will improve the downtown area. The buildings along Main St. are for the most part either vacant or butt-ugly AND vacant....if we could only rejuvenate Main St. business, but that's another kettle of fish, isn't it ?.....
Maria Giannuzzi March 17, 2011 at 02:42 PM
The experience of towns and cities around the country is that when a rail platform is built in a declining downtown area or neighborhood, the area is economically revitalized. Businesses, shops and restaurants move in, tax revenues increase, vandalism and crime decrease. In short, the community wins. This is what Windsor Locks officials are trying to accomplish with the relocation of the train platform back to downtown. Residents of Windsor Locks need to support these efforts. The present location of the rail platform and bus commuter lot make it difficult for Windsor Locks residents who live nearby to walk to the rail platfrom or commuter lot because it is unsafe--something our State Department of Transportation needs to correct if they truly believe what their website states about their support for public transportation. Credible businesses and developers will never resurrect downtown unless our officials and residents demonstrate in tangible ways that they truly care about the community of Windsor Locks. I often disagree with our selectmen, but in this case they have demonstrated that they care about downtown. Now it is residents turn to do the same.
Maria Giannuzzi March 17, 2011 at 03:19 PM
It is unfortunate that the Windsor Locks Preservation Association has decided to disband and it is even more unfortunate that a handful of members have decided that the $45,000 in contributions given to the WLPA primarily by Windsor Locks residents and businesses should be given to the Trolley Museum, which is located in East Windsor. (According to the WLPA website, a few former members of the WLPA are going to continue their fundraising efforts, but this time for the benefit of the Trolley Museum. ) I believe they had an ethical obligation to give this money to a historical organization in Windsor Locks such as Memorial Hall. The WLPA could have continued as an organization working on other preservation projects in Windsor Locks until the train station issue was resolved. This would have been of tremendous benefit to the community. While the WLPA made worthwhile efforts to restore the old train station, they failed to consider the needs and desires of the community, and as a result they lost both members and credibility. WLPA leadership failed both their organization and the community of Windsor Locks. They showed almost no interest in Main Street, downtown, or other historic structures in town. Despite years of operation and fundraising, WLPA accomplished nothing of any value in town.
Maria Giannuzzi March 17, 2011 at 06:21 PM
I have read a news report that the Windsor Locks Preservation Association has not yet made a decision as to which non-profit historic preservation organization in Connecticut should receive the $45,000 in contributions the WLPA obtained primarily from Windsor Locks residents and businesses. I am very confused by this report, because at the meeting held by the WLPA on Monday evening for the purpose of dissolving the group, a letter sent to another member (which I never received, nor did I receive an email) implied that the $45,000 would go to the Trolley Museum located in East Windsor. When I asked Barbara Schley at that same meeting how much the WLPA had in non-restricted donations/contributions, she replied "she did not know." I learned the amount from an article published in The Hartford Courant this week. The leadership of the WLPA should clarify this matter. Is the news report accurate, and if it is, when will the WLPA decide where the money will go and who will make this decision? Why isn't the WLPA communicating with its members by email as they ususally do? The secrecy and misinformation surrounding the dissolution of the group and the distribution of the $45,000 is both unnecessary and counter-productive.
d. pote March 17, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Im a member of the WLPA an attneded the member meeting Monday when the group ended. There was a group vote to end the WLPA and only Maria Gannuzzi and one other woman were against it. Neither of the people that founded this group ever said anything about the donated funds at the meeting and it was my understanding announcements were to be forthcoming. Members got letters in the mail to cast votes. The letters did NOT say the group is giving money to any group specifically. There was a write up in the Courant and it must have had wrong info because there was a retraction made today. Members also got notified of Monday's meeting because it was a private meeting for only the membership. To get into the meeting, we had to sign the membership book. I guess Maria is mistaken about getting a notice because she was there and sign the book. But shouldnt the real focus be the train station. It is terrible that our group couldnt get it because of the town issues involved. It will be very sad if this building gets worse and has to be torn down.
Maria Giannuzzi March 18, 2011 at 12:08 AM
I am writing this in two comments. See my other comment for continuation. Thanks. The only notice I received concerning the March 14 WLPA meeting was an email I received at 12:14 a.m. on March 13. The email stated "Some members did not receive notices so I am attempting to notify everyone via email." The email gave no information about the subject of the meeting. During the meeting, I did see a letter sent to another member that mentioned the Trolley Museum. I did not receive this letter, nor did I receive an email about the Trolley Museum. During the meeting, the woman who was sitting next to me told me "I don't want the Trolley Museum to get the money" (meaning the unrestricted funds the WLPA held). So apparently, we got this idea from somewhere.
Maria Giannuzzi March 18, 2011 at 12:13 AM
Continuation of my earlier comment follows. There were 21 members at the WLPA meeting on March 14. One member told me after the meeting that he did not vote on the resolution to dissolve the WLPA. There were also one or two others who did not vote. There were two members who voted "no." Most of the members who voted in favor of the resolution were the members of the Fundraising Committee. I do understand the confusion, however. It was a confusing meeting. The secrecy contributed to the confusion and was totally unnecessary. All members should have received both emails and letters well in advance of the meeting informing them of the leadership's intentions and concerns. And everyone at the meeting should have been given an agenda with topics to be discussed and voted on. The agenda should also have included details about what to do with the unrestricted funds if the members did decide to dissolve the WLPA. Although it was a "private" meeting that did not stop the leadership from inviting members of the press. I did not have a problem with the press being there, but it certainly could not be considered a private meeting. As for the train station, it was the leadership and a few other members who decided to give up on the train station.
Barbara Carlson March 27, 2011 at 06:02 PM
I myself was a member for WLPA since the beginning. At first the townspeople were very supportive with all our fundraising events but as years past, we got fewer people to come to our fundraising events because the townspeople did not see any progress going on with the Train Station. Even the town officials did not come to any events we held. We were very close to purchasing this building until the town officials got involved with moving the train stop. I don't know where Maria Gianuzzi got the information about the money going to the Trolley Museum. There were 3 choices that were sent out to the members for them to vote on where the money should go. Maria came to 1 wine tasting event and the other women who spoke up at that meeting never came to any event. So where's the support there? When you can't get support from the townspeople, it gets harder to raise money. I was under the impression that Maria was in charge of Cleaning up Main Street. What happened to that? I haven't heard much about that. I grew up in Windsor Locks and I remember when that station was running so I wanted very much to Save that Station, but for the past year we could not get anything done without that letter from the town official and without that letter Amtrak was thru talking to us about selling the Train Station. So tell me Maria, what do you want us to do?
Maria Giannuzzi March 29, 2011 at 03:18 PM
I went and contributed to many WLPA fundraising events over the years as well as paying yearly membership dues. I also contacted Barbara Schley a few years back to see if the WLPA would be interested in a joint project to conduct historic tours of Main Street and the Windsor Locks Canal. Barbara told me that the WLPA had no time to participate in this type of activity; all their efforts were directed at fundraising. I was also asked by a WLPA member to become President of the WLPA and was told that I "would not have to do anything" after I became President. The implication was that others would run the organization. I declined. Where are the non-restricted funds going to be donated? Many people would like to know.
Maria Giannuzzi March 29, 2011 at 03:20 PM
You asked me. Here is what I believe the WLPA should have done: 1. WLPA's yearly financial statements should have been available to all members and the public. 2. All funds collected by WLPA should have been kept in Windsor Locks banks. 3. WLPA should have worked on other historic preservation activities and projects in Windsor Locks while continuing their efforts to purchase the train station. 4. Finally, and most importantly, WLPA should have taken every opportunity to become part of the Windsor Locks community instead of focusing all their efforts on fundraising. Although fundraising was a necessary part of the mission to purchase and restore the train station, their failure to take part in other community events and community projects (including other historic preservation projects) I believe is the real reason most people in town no longer support the WLPA.
Maria Giannuzzi March 31, 2011 at 01:55 PM
In a comment Barbara Carlson wanted to know what I was doing lately “to clean up Main Street.” Although I never sought to clean up Main Street (it doesn’t really need cleaning), it’s a fair question. I am interested in creating a livable community with safe streets, a revitalized and economically viable Main Street, crime-free neighborhoods, and a peaceful and wildlife-friendly canal and river. And I’ve tried to do just that, first in an organized form with a group and then later on in other ways. It is difficult for any group to be successful in town because over the past few decades the idea of community has gradually been erased from the town’s collective memory. Some residents are cynical and question the motivations of anyone who wants to improve things. Others believe that the problems Windsor Locks faces are insurmountable--and they may be right. And then there are those who want things to stay exactly the way they are because of self-interest.
Maria Giannuzzi March 31, 2011 at 01:55 PM
I thought it would be a better use of my time to spend it writing and perhaps working on video documentaries. So I’ve written letters to the editor and emails to reporters, state agencies and others. I have also done a lot of research about the history of Windsor Locks from the 1930s to the present. In addition, I have plans for a new organization that has a broader focus than the Town of Windsor Locks, The Center for Creative Community, a grassroots organization dedicated to promoting creative approaches for the building of peaceful, resilient, livable communities. This all takes a great deal of time and effort.
WL Train April 01, 2011 at 01:03 AM
I think Ms. Giannuzzi is misinformed and ambitious but unable to complete what she starts! First, she started a group called Step Up Main Street. Her group accomplished nothing, had no members and was very short lived. She then thought she'd run for 1st Selectman. This was short lived as she had no support from anyone in town. Maria, can you tell me one thing you have completed in Windsor Locks? The WLPA was a community organization who's goal was to acquire and restore the Historic Train Station. Due directly to lack of cooperation from Town officials - after 18 + months - the WLPA decided to disband. This was not an easy decision but one made out of necessity. The organization has bylaws, which govern their activities as well as a dissolution. If Ms. Giannuzzi wishes to continue the quest to save the Train Station, she should do so. Her efforts would be better spent contacting the Board of Selectmen in Windsor Locks and expressing her concerns to them , than spending hours ranting on various sites about the WLPA and it's activities. Finally, the point of this entire situation is the Historic Train Station. It will soon be lost, FOREVER, if the Board of Selectmen don't do something immediately. It would be a shame to lose such an important piece of the Town's history and heritage to satisfy someone's ego! Shame on the Board of Selectman in Windsor Locks! How many shameful acts have taken place in WL in the past? This is one embarassment too many!!!
Kim H. April 01, 2011 at 09:34 AM
I think it's obvious that the money which was slated for rejuvenation of the train station should stay right here in Windsor Locks. Trolley museum is great, but money was raised here for the benefit of WL. Suggestions: buy the empty building next to Alaimo & Barile, rehab it and turn it over to a non profit. I have a terrific idea for it and would be willing to run or be very involved in the whole shebang. I'm sure there are other good ideas out there; stop the squabbling and find a good place for the $$ and get going on it ! This will help rehab downtown at least. Of course don't turn it over to WL gov't they will only waste it.
Kim H. April 01, 2011 at 12:28 PM
One more question....aren't the donors asking for their money back ?
Maria Giannuzzi April 01, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Kim, I commend your interest in starting a non-profit and renovating the empty building on Main Street. It's a good idea. The non-restricted funds also could be used for Memorial Hall. One project at Memorial Hall is cleaning the names of Windsor Locks servicemen on the war memorials out front which are obscured from being exposed to the elements. I'm sure Memorial Hall would have other uses for the money. I don't know if some of the donors are asking for the money back. Possibly. I believe that town officials would have to put the money in an escrow fund which could only be used for the renovation of the train station.
Maria Giannuzzi April 01, 2011 at 02:24 PM
WL Train, I'll stand by my earlier statement. But I would like to add that I am willing to take risks even though I know that the political and social culture in Windsor Locks makes it difficult to make positive changes in town. By the way, this political and social culture goes back decades and is chiefly responsible for our present troubles. One person cannot change this culture. It would take a core group of about 300-400 residents and for a variety of reasons residents are not willing to be engaged in the process of change. So we stay stuck in the muck. I've taken real risks when I knew I had very little chance of succeeding. I do not enjoy failing, but despite your criticism, I have gained something from my failure--the recognition that it's much easier to take risks and fail than to stay in the shadows. So WL Train, I suggest you take a risk and use your real name. P.S. I have produced a book, The Windsor Locks Canal, which hopefully someone halfway around the world is reading right now.
Kim H. April 01, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Well, 45K won't buy much anyhow, probably not even that icky building I referred to. This bush is probably much too thorny for my stomach !
Barbara Carlson April 03, 2011 at 04:32 PM
Maria, do you honestly know what you are talking about. I do the financial reports every quarterly and it was available to anyone who wanted it. At our yearly meeting, it was passed out to those who wanted it. Even the 1st selectman office recieved this when it was asked. As far as the banks in town. We did have 2 of them but. One of them we kept a little bit in there and the other one we closed because we got a better interest rate somewhere else. It was told to you at the meeting that the bylaws states if we resolved our group the money will go to another historical preservation anywhere in Connecticut. It could not be used for any other projects. As far as Barbara telling you we could not get involved in any other project on Main Street. The answer is, why would we start another project when the 1st one wasn't done yet. We wanted to do 1 project at a time. If the town officials did not get involved in moving the Train depot, we could have had this train station by now and then they could have worked on that issue after it was purchased. We tried explaining this to you. The money was voted on where it should go by the membership. It wasn't up to us. I just think this is ridiculous that you keep carrying on about this subject that you don't even have the right facts. It's very upsetting and I'm tired of it.
Maria Giannuzzi April 04, 2011 at 02:22 PM
I attended the first annual meeting of the WLPA that took place at the Senior Center. At that meeting a member asked Barbara Schley for a copy of the organization's financial statement and was told that the Treasurer (Barbara Carlson, I believe) had left the copies of the financial statement at home. If I am incorrect would you please let me know. At the last annual meeting only a handful of members attended. I don't remember Barbara Carlson giving a financial report or letting members know that the financial statements were available at that meeting. Were financial statements available at that meeting? All the financial statements for the WLPA should have been placed on their website. I have checked the website and cannot find the financial statements. These financial statments should be placed on the organization's website as soon as possible and if they are not, Barbara Carlson should explain why. The non-restricted funds should be given to Memorial Hall in Windsor Locks. Memorial Hall is a historic preservation organization. The WLPA had very few members left and it would have been very easy for a few members (the fundraising committee) to determine where the money should go.
Barbara Carlson April 05, 2011 at 12:33 PM
The very 1st meeting at the Senior Center was our 1st meeting and I did forget the finance report but Barbara did say if anybody wanted a copy to let us know. This past meeting was not our annual meeting which we had in October and finance were past out there. This last meeting was for an announcement. The members did go talk to the members at Memorial Hall. They are also shorthanded in volunteers and had no projects right now to work with. We needed to know if there were any projects because we did not want to hold up the money. And do you honestly think that the town officials would put this money in escrow for other projects? Wrong. It would have been used for anything but. As far as putting the financial statement on the Web site. Do you see any other non-project organization put their report on line? Or do you see any financial report on the web site?
Maria Giannuzzi April 06, 2011 at 01:50 PM
Here's a project for Memorial Hall: The memorial to Windsor Locks servicemen on the grounds of Memorial Hall needs to be cleaned so that all the names are clearly visible. Some of these servicemen died in wartime service to their country. Other than the memories of families and friends, their names are all that is left of them. A company can be hired to do the cleaning and restoration work. If the organization that runs Memorial Hall does not have a volunteer to hire a company and oversee the cleaning and restoration, I volunteer to do it. Here's another project for Memorial Hall: Hire a consultant to advise the organization on how to best preserve their collections and use some of the money to buy the necessary equipment and display cases, etc. I volunteer to work on this project as well. If the non-restricted funds are held in escrow, town officials are legally obligated to spend the money on the train station unless the residents of Windsor Locks agree that the money can be used for other purposes. The WLPA has a credibility gap. It should do everything in its power to close this gap, including putting its financial reports on its website. (It always, always promotes its fundraising activities on its website.) For whatever reason, WLPA has failed to effectively communicate with all its members and the residents of Windsor Locks. It has demonstated not only a lack of respect for its members, but also for the community.
Barbara Carlson April 12, 2011 at 02:01 PM
To respond to the issue for Memorial Hall. You need to sit down with Ed Sobatka like we did and tell him what you would like to do. You can check into their financial situation. He can tell you what kind of funds they have and what needs to be done. He said himself, he has very few volunteers. So if the town is really that concerned which obviously by the vote they weren't then they should volunteer. I'm not going to dwell on this.
Maria Giannuzzi April 12, 2011 at 04:20 PM
Barbara Carlson, does your recent comment mean that the WLPA has decided to give the non-restricted funds to Memorial Hall? I have not yet heard an announcement about where the money is going, but perhaps I missed it. I have not checked the WLPA website in about a week. It would be very helpful if the WLPA would let the residents of Windsor Locks know what decision they have made concerning the non-restricted funds in this forum (Patch.com).

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