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Bethlehem demolition hits snag with lead paint-asbestos combination

Special to the Union Leader

June 28. 2012 10:17PM

BETHLEHEM - The planned demolition of the Maplehurst Hotel on Thursday was stalled briefly due to findings of lead paint on the building's walls. The lead paint, coupled with asbestos, made the main building too hazardous to demolish at once.

The demolition site will be the home of the new Bethlehem Public Library, a 7,000-8,000 square foot facility. The library's projected completion date is December 2013.

The approximately 50 residents who turned out to watch the demolition were told that the process would have to happen gradually over the coming weeks to ensure a safe disposal of hazardous building materials. Residents were still able to watch one smaller outbuildings be demolished.

'We've had to test each building,' Bethlehem Fire Chief Jack Anderson told the crowd. '[A building] has to be a certain level and it becomes hazardous waste if it exceeds levels.'

Anderson added that crews would have to remove building clapboards one by one and dispose of them in a special facility because of the lead paint. He stated that the soil around the site would have to be tested and monitored for asbestos levels, after which it could be loamed and seeded.

'Everything is so documented and so overseen, it's ridiculous,' said Anderson, who told the crowd that safety precautions were being taken very seriously. He noted that there was a crew of people monitoring the air quality for toxins, as well as two environmental engineers, Christopher Melby and Steve Raymond, of GZA Environmental, on site.

The Maplehurst was built in 1875 as a boarding house and converted into a hotel in 1910-1911. In 1974, it became the Chase Tennis Camp, but has been abandoned since 1988.

In 2013, the site of the camp will become home to the new Bethlehem Public Library. The library's current space is one room in the town building, a building that is shared with the Police and Fire Departments.

'It's small,' said Secretary of the Friends of the Bethlehem Public Library Betty Grubbs. 'We really do need more space for more people.'

'It's going to bring a much-needed community space,' said Director of the Library Laura Clerkin, who noted that a community meeting space would be part of the new library, available for any organization in town to use.

According to Grubbs, the new library will be all on one level, with a children's reading room, a computer room, and another reading section that she said could be a 'quiet place for senior citizens' to read.

The new library will be a green building, and the Bethlehem librarians and Friends of the Bethlehem Public Library noted that they are currently looking for outside grants and donations to fund the project.

'We're looking for someone now that knows their way around grants,' said Grubbs.

'We're just in the beginning,' added Clerkin. 'It's important for the community and town to keep costs in line.' Nevertheless, she stated that they plan to make the building 'as green as possible.'

Clerkin, Grubbs and Marsha Palazzolo, the president of Friends of the Bethlehem Public Library community group, noted that community businesses have been supportive, planning ideas for fundraisers and encouraging outside donations.

'We hope everybody can pitch in,' said Palazzolo. 'We hope everybody can do their share.'

Public Safety Business Bethlehem

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