Accepting donations “sets a bad precedent,” Selectboard Chair Cheryl Mayberry stated. Board members, Steve Dalessio and Peggy Pschirrer agreed, explaining to accept a gift shows “the rich get their way.” Rejected May 6th was granite curbing to enhance both sides of the Town Common, a showplace enjoyed by residents and visitors alike for almost two centuries. The rejected proposed gift – nine hundred feet of curbing on Elm and Washington Streets – installed costs $18,000. The majority of the Village, called the quintessential New England Village by late author James Michener, is curbed in granite.
This decision is contrary to the intent of the Internal Revenue Code which encourages a “…contribution or gift to or for the use of a State, a possession of the United States, or any political subdivision of any of the foregoing but only if the contribution or gift is made for exclusively public purposes.” A community improvement, one that is out in front of everyone and every day, is not for a few, but certainly for the public benefit.
Recently many Walpole community improvements have been accomplished with donations from those who have had the ability and desire to be charitable. The Walpole Town Library was enlarged and renovated. In September 2016, private donations surpassed the goal of $80,000 to install a new playground at the Walpole Primary School. Contributions to purchase the Walker Road Property has protected 1,000 feet of Connecticut River frontage. The “Save Hooper” campaign raised private contributions to buy the easement on the Hooper property and save it from development. On the Town Common, the gazebo was a single private gift for the benefit of the community. “Dog poop” containers were contributed. The Veterans Memorial was gifted, and is visited by many residents and out of town guests. And trees to be enjoyed by all have been gifted to the Town for the Common, one going back a hundred years. Are we now entering an era where private generosity for community improvement in Walpole is being discouraged?