Sawmill is for sale in Wilton

WILTON – A portable sawmill, once part of the industrial arts program at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School, has not been used by students for some years and is now being offered for sale.

Superintendent Christine Tyrie told the school board on April 30, “they tell me it could be made operational very quickly,” but current teacher Mark Ekberg said he was not familiar with the operation and the school’s insurance carrier said instruction from a “certified instructor” would be required before he could use it.

Tyrie said she had not been able to find such an instructor.

The sawmill was part of an alternative education program designed and run for many years by former wood shop teacher Dirk Witty. The program sawed logs obtained from residents and produced much of the lumber used in the woodworking classes. The lumber was also used in community projects, such as building the covers on the town-owned well on Carnival Hill. Such projects were an integral part of the program, which focused on what are now called at-risk students.

When Witty retired in 2004, the school did not continue the alternative program, and it has never been revived.

Board Member Harry Dailey suggested that the mill be sold and the money “invested in programs that would invest more students,” offering again such programs as basic electricity, plumbing and carpentry, subjects not currently offered.

Longtime physical education teacher David Finch said, “I saw the sawmill in full production and it helped a lot of kids. The (present) teacher would love to use it.”

Board member and former teacher Jim Button recalled Witty and noted how many students had benefitted from the alternative course.

“Kids stayed in school because of that mill,” he said.

Member Fran Bujak said the school was “offering nothing in high end alternative classes.”

Chairman Geoff Brock said, “I don’t want to shirk our nontraditional programs.”

But Principal Brian Bagley said he thought it was “a matter of safety. I’m not comfortable with the sawmill, and there is the problem of turnover of teachers.”

He noted the size of the logs and the need for some means of moving them. Witty used a tractor, which is no longer available.

If money is invested in training a teacher to use it, and that teacher leaves, you have to start again, Bagley said.

Several board members wondered why the greenhouse, which is part of the school building, had not been maintained. Tyrie said the heating system had not been properly installed and moisture had caused it to rust.

The board voted to offer the mill for sale.