POULTNEY — Equipment that was utilized and owned by a group of former GMC students trying to re-create a makerspace is being held at private property after the group was forced from the property by owner Len Knappmiller on Monday.
“If you feel like your head is spinning, that’s exactly what’s happening,” said Jamie Lerner, a member of REclaimED’s board of directors. “This was our one chance. We’re never getting back in there.”
After the closure of Green Mountain College, a small group of students and community members led by Daniel Lang banded together to form REclaimED — a nonprofit makerspace in honor of Green Mountain College’s former REED certification program and space, where artists and makers could come build community and projects.
The group’s current home is at 55 Beaman St., where Green Mountain College once leased space for the program and its equipment, which Lang said amounts to around $15,000 in wood and machinery.
“We’ve purchased the tools from the college because we wanted to keep that aspect of the college alive,” Lerner said. “We’ve been trying over the past couple of months to get a lease deal.”
A bill of sale dated June 24 and signed by then-college president Robert Allen and Daniel Lang, the president of the board of directors of the space, cited that “wood-working shop equipment and materials located at 55 Beaman Street, Poultney, Vermont, 05764 ... The equipment is sold as-is with no guarantee or warranty.”
The bill specifically stated the sale did not include any leased equipment, specifically one bandsaw and a joiner subject to a lease by the college that may be sold to another party by the college. Any other equipment was included in the sale, which totaled $4,500.
An inventory list provided by the group listed a compound sliding miter saw, drill press, joiner, dust collector, jet air filtration system, a 20-inch planer, chainsaws, routers, electric hand drills, cordless drills, impact drivers, circular saws, dremels, 3D printers, clamps, chisels, hand tools and a stepladder, most of which had been evaluated to be in “good” or “OK” condition, and all of which are located at the property at 55 Beaman St.
But negotiating a new lease deal with Knappmiller wasn’t successful this summer, and the REclaimED group decided instead to look elsewhere. The group found 169 Main St., a former home of the REED program through GMC.
The only problem was moving. The group said it hasn’t been able to access its equipment to make the move.
“For the past month or so, he has been unwilling to let us get our tools out of the building,” Lerner said. “We’ve checked with police, we’ve checked with a lawyer ... since it is our property that we purchased from the college when it was being leased by the college, he is not allowed to hold it from us ... and he is doing exactly that.”
Lerner said the group was contacted on Sunday by Knappmiller, who said he would allow the group to pick up their reclaimed wood the following day. On Monday, the crew arrived and filled their entire van with wood, hoping they would also be able to take their machine equipment with them.
While the building owner didn’t seem to disapprove of moving the wooden materials, once the group began moving the machinery, they encountered visible conflict with the property owner. But the group was adamant about remaining inside the space long enough to get their equipment out.
Lang and Lerner said the USDA and Key Bank signed off on the sale of the tools, and the group had already submitted that information to Knappmiller.
“This is a community enterprise,” said Poultney resident Ina Smith. “It’s supported by the entire community.”
Also among the group’s supporters were former GMC professor Michael Beattie and Poultney resident Chuck Helfer.
“Anything with new business in this town is a good thing,” Helfer said outside the site. “Any new organization that starts, we need to support that. This is a group (like that).”
Efforts were made on Monday to contact Knappmiller and attorneys from Facey, Goss & McPhee, who Knappmiller was formerly associated with, but the law office declined to offer comment and Knappmiller could not be reached.