November 13. 2012 1:21PM

Amherst town hall closed because of structural concerns

Union Leader Correspondent

AMHERST - The Amherst Town Hall has been closed to the public because of structural concerns, which are currently being corrected.

Selectmen gathered for an emergency meeting Monday to evaluate concerns from an engineer, deciding to immediately shut down the 1825 building for at least three days. Town officials had previously planned to remedy problems with the roof at town hall, but during an assessment of the structure Friday, an engineer determined the building may have shifted since initial photographs were taken by his firm.

"There is no imminent threat of collapse of the support system to the roof," a release issued by Town Administrator James O'Mara said this morning, explaining remedial steps to shore the structure with temporary supports and lentils from the basement to the second floor need to be in place as soon as possible to prevent further shifting.

Glenn Dodge of Dodgco Colonial Design, an engineering firm from New Boston, was recently hired by the town to perform the engineering work for the planned repair of the rotted support system to the town hall's roof. According to the release, Dodge took photographs of the rotting areas Friday, and then compared the photos to those taken during his initial assessment in June.

Dodge noticed differences that prompted him to contact town officials with concerns.

"The repair work was budgeted and planned for the spring of 2013, but not to the extent that we have just been advised," said Bruce Bowler, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. "We will need a better idea of the cost, as this will need to be a warrant article."

Town hall employees have been given the option of staying home, working remotely or remaining in the building while professionals perform the demolition necessary to expose the beams that will need to buttressed.

Selectman Brad Galinson said it is crucial to get the work done before the winter weather strikes in full force, saying the town is fortunate that last week's snow storm was weak.

"Had this not been discovered (Friday), the first snowfall of any significance would have surely put us out of business, or worse yet injured an employee or a member of the public," Selectman Dwight Brew said in a statement.

It is not clear exactly when the building at 2 Main St. will reopen, but town officials said it could possibly be open to the public on Friday, although that depends on how well the work progresses. In the meantime, selectmen's meeting for Tuesday has been rescheduled to Thursday. The meeting location has not yet been determined.