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By Kara Herlihy
The Faillaces are out, and the downstairs of the Schoolhouse Market is empty. What began as a confusing, some say backroom, eviction process has ended as amicably as Rootswork board members would allow.
Members of the community, friends, and some Rootswork members were on hand Tuesday morning, October 30, to help Linda and Larry Faillace gut the East Warren Schoolhouse Market, including dismantling the walk-in cooler and transporting an antique piano onto a waiting truck.
The schoolhouse is owned by the Town of Warren, and the town select board leases it for $600 a month to the nonprofit Rootswork, created to support local agriculture. The select board has ultimate say over the disposition of the property. Rootswork, in turn, leased the first floor to the Schoolhouse Market for a rent of $300, and imposed a number of other conditions during the lease renegotiation.
The eviction became final on Tuesday morning, following one 'save our store' meeting at the Town Hall held two weeks ago and one regularly scheduled select board meeting where supporters appealed to the board during the public comment period.
At the first meeting, Linda Faillace disputed the heavily circulated rumors that she hadn't paid the rent on the town-owned building to Rootswork. She also denied ever filing bankruptcy, as many community members had reported hearing from Rootswork board members.
Rootswork is a nonprofit organization whose mission (according to their website) is "devoted to protecting, promoting, and nurturing agriculture in the Mad River Valley."
"FORGOTTEN THEIR MISSION"
Members of the public were upset that Rootswork had 'lost sight of its goals' and 'forgotten their mission.' One member of the audience said that the Schoolhouse Market 'is the heart of Rootswork.' Others added that the store's East Warren location is ideal for its purposes. It sits near the community garden and now has a root cellar.
Rootswork board members were absent from the special meeting, save Barry Simpson, because, according to board member Jen Higgins, the meeting was a "rally to save the store, and we had already made our decision."
Higgins provided The Valley Reporter with the following statement:
"The Rootswork Board is very sorry that the negotiations could not reach a successful resolution. While the Board is dismayed by the many inflammatory and patently untrue accusations directed at us, we feel strongly that this lease dispute could not or should not have been settled by public debate. We wish the Schoolhouse Market, the Faillace family and Bruce Fowler all the best in their future endeavors. Although this is a sad day for all of us, Rootswork is looking forward to returning the space to community use and moving ahead with our mission."
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT
Higgins also included the following information regarding Rootsworks' plans for the Schoolhouse's future. "Rootswork recently had a professional building inspection done. We are planning and implementing building renovations to address any problems, improve energy efficiency and expand community uses for the building. For the first floor we're in the organizing stages of a community co-op, and we'll be seeking input from our members and the community for other complementary uses. One possibility we're considering is a community gathering spot where coffee, snacks and Wi-Fi would be available.Concerning the East Warren Town Green adjacent to the schoolhouse, we're gathering further public comment on the plans compiled from the charrette held September 29, and will be presenting a master plan proposal for community review."
Those interested in the Schoolhouse and its future uses should attend the Rootswork meetings, held in the upstairs of the East Warren Schoolhouse the first Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m.