Report to the Petersham Annual Town Meeting
June 1, 2009
Nichewaug Inn Task Force
presented by Ann M. Lewis, Chair

I am Ann Lewis, Chair of the Nichewaug Inn Task Force. On behalf of the Task Force, I present our progress report to the Town.

The Task Force’s purpose is to investigate and make recommendations to the Town of Petersham regarding the status and future use of the former Nichewaug Inn/Maria Assumpta Academy buildings and grounds. The Task Force also recommends how to finance projects, and we facilitate current maintenance. Membership is appointed by the Select Board. Because of time commitments, the Task Force is smaller than at this time last year, with 10 members who can regularly attend meetings. Some former members contribute by taking on specific tasks, and a number of other people have provided assistance to the project. All are a big help!

The Task Force was established just over one year ago. We now meet as a single committee with regularly scheduled meetings on the fourth Thursday of the month, although that time may change as we move into our summer schedule. With additional meetings scheduled as needed, we have been meeting approximately twice a month this spring. Our meetings are open to the public, and we welcome your attendance and ideas. Meetings are posted at the Town Office Building.

Accomplishments this year include
• Determining the essential information needed for any recommendation about use, for grant proposals, and for potential developers
• Developing requests for proposals, bids, or information
• Making recommendations for the award of bids
• Determining that if the existing buildings are used in some way, that a mix of low impact uses is likely to be the best scenario

The types of information that we are collecting include updated costs for demolishing all or part of the structure. We have been unable to identify any grant money available for demolition only, unless the demolition is done to develop the site for other purposes. We are updating the property survey so that the town can have a current survey as part of a Property Information Package and the survey can be recorded with the Registry of Deeds. We have created specifications and solicited estimates for factual property information including completion of the Phase II Environmental Assessment and an investigation of the drinking water and septic conditions on the site. These items will give the town and potential grantors and developers a clear idea of what environmental issues must be addressed within the buildings and on the site. Availability of septic and drinking water help determine potential uses of the site, so we should know how large a septic system is possible on the site using standard technologies, and whether the well is grandfathered as a public water supply. We have developed a request for proposals for a planning consultant who has knowledge of successful projects similar to ours and who can help with the investigation of feasible uses, interactions with appropriate agencies and interested groups, writing of grants, and developing a marketing strategy. Funds for the property are in two accounts: $5,897 that was raised and appropriated for the Inn’s property maintenance, administration, and security; and $47,622 that was transferred to the town by The Trustees of Reservations.

In addition, the Nichewaug Inn Task Force has
• Organized several meetings with economic development, community development, and historic preservation consultants to speak with the Task Force and members of the community. They all have experience relevant to our project. Our next invited guests are a Circuit Rider from Preservation Massachusetts and a representative from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Heritage Landscape Inventory Program. The meeting begins at 4p on 10 June 2009. Please join us!
• Held joint meetings with or attended meetings and presentations of the Select Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, and the Historic District Commission related to the property and the Town Center
• Spoken at length with a representative from Senator Kerry’s office to solicit advice and determine what assistance the Senator may be able to provide
• Held several Clean-Up Days to keep the landscaping in good order and minimize any hazards on the grounds and exterior to the buildings
• Conducted property assessments and building code analysis
• Worked with the Fire Chief and Building Inspector to develop a system for timely notification of the Fire Department to ensure the presence of Fire Department escorts and back-up personnel that are required for entry into the Inn
• Worked with the Building Inspector, Police Chief, Fire Chief, Highway Superintendant, and Select Board to ensure the security of the buildings and grounds. Everyone in town wants the Inn to be as secure as possible. We all work to ensure that it is
• Spoken with the town’s insurance company to apply for a grant to increase building security

As we continue to move forward with many of the items already mentioned, we continue
• Working towards the identification of viable uses and sources of funding that will benefit the community economically, socially, and esthetically and that will not cost the town money to implement
• Examining scenarios for future ownership and development that relieve the town of day-to-day responsibility and liability while ensuring that the needs and expectations of the town are met
And we will secure the cupola and a third floor window to reduce damage from the weather.

The Task Force cannot accomplish its goal of helping the Town reach consensus on the future of the Nichewaug Inn/Maria Assumpta Academy unless we all work together. Soon, you will receive a questionnaire that will ask about uses for the site. Help us be forward-looking and think of what we need in Petersham and on the Common. Picture what you would like to have on that site under the best of circumstances. Also, be pragmatic and imagine your next best scenario. Return the questionnaire with your answers and comments. Also, the Nichewaug Inn Task Force urges you to attend our meetings, contact us directly, or reach us through the Town Offices at 978-724-3353 or our email address (

The Task Force thanks all of you for your care and concern about the Nichewaug Inn/Maria Assumpta Academy and extends a special thanks to all who have helped with maintaining the property!