November 16. 2012 2:34PM

Amherst Town Hall reopened after support beams installed

By Kimberly Houghton
Union Leader Correspondent

AMHERST -- Twelve new support beams have been installed at the Amherst Town Hall after structural concerns forced the facility to be temporarily shut down this week.

According to James O’Mara, town administrator, temporary support beams were placed on all three levels of the aging building, which was constructed in 1825.

“It is important to note that these are temporary in nature,” said O’Mara, explaining a more permanent fix to the structural problems will be necessary. Five temporary support beams were placed in the basement, two on the first floor and an additional five on the second floor, he said.

On Tuesday, selectmen decided to immediately close the town hall to the public after an engineer noticed some shifting of the structure.

“The issue was less about safety and more about the demolition necessary for the tradespeople to get to the support beams,” said O’Mara. “We had demolition on all three floors.”

Town officials had previously planned to remedy problems with the roof at town hall, but during an assessment of the structure on Nov. 9, an engineer determined the building may have shifted since initial photographs were taken from his firm.

“There is no imminent threat of collapse of the support system to the roof,” O’Mara said in a release, explaining remedial steps to shore the structure with temporary supports and lentils needed to be in place prior to winter 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.

“The crew did a tremendous job,” O’Mara said of the temporary beams that were installed this week.

Although the facility was closed to the public, it was reopened on Thursday morning. Town employees continued working at the town hall -- located at 2 Main St. -- throughout the construction process.

The Board of Selectmen will now determine the scope of work that must be done to permanently fix the roof’s support beam. The cost to permanently remedy the problems have not yet been determined, according to O’Mara.

There was previously $115,000 allocated in the town budget for upkeep, maintenance and repairs to all of the town buildings. Some of those funds were dedicated to the town hall structural repairs, he said.

“However, the magnitude of the situation has increased to a point where those funds would be woefully inadequate,” O’Mara said Friday, explaining selectmen will need to further review the financing needed to make the permanent repairs.

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