By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough??”The Board of Selectmen began the process during its July 22 meeting of filling out a seven-member committee that will steer planning for the redevelopment of the Westborough State Hospital property, interviewing four of 10 candidates who have stepped forward for consideration.
The board plans to interview the remaining candidates at its August meeting and appoint the committee in early September. The reuse committee is likely to face a years-long task of sorting out potential reuses for the sprawling property, as well as how to fund the redevelopment.
Most of those interviewed during the July 22 meeting are well known to the board and have extensive experience in other volunteer roles.
Historical Commission Chair Hazel Nourse told the board she would serve as a key link for the committee, which will have to work with the commission to identify and protect historical resources in any potential reuse plan. She also said the position would allow her to utilize her 25 years of experience as a land use attorney practicing in the state of New York.
“I's focused on this property for historical and personal reasons,” she said.
Garry Kessler, who has served on the Conservation Commission and other boards and was an active member of the group that helped the town acquire the property, said the committee will have to come up with a “well-conceived planning process” to ensure that all interests are heard, even as he acknowledged that not all ideas townspeople have for the site can be realized.
Cliff Watts, who is currently chair of the cultural committee, said the property could help realize a dream many have to find a better home for local arts and cultural events, including the annual event, Arts in Common. And he said the town's enthusiasm and passion for the property should be tapped to help ensure the project is a success- and not a financial burden on taxpayers.
“There is a lot of good will and the right kind of raw spirit among the citizenry,” he said.
Earl Storey, a member of the Department of Public Works and a longtime town volunteer,? said that he has been closely involved with the project since the town first began considering acquiring the hospital property. Selectman Leigh Emery noted that Storey has an in-depth knowledge of the byzantine infrastructure on the property.
“I'se gone through a lot of variations about what we'se going to do,” Storey said. “I's love to be able to be part of seeing it through.”