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Earthquake still shaking up for Epping recreation center

Union Leader Correspondent

November 26. 2012 10:34PM

EPPING - Damage to the town's historic Watson Academy possibly caused by October's 4.0 earthquake that shook New Hampshire has recreation officials looking for a new home.

Recreation Director Nicole Bizzaro is exploring options after the building - a former school that houses the recreation center - was forced to close following the discovery of cracks and other structural problems in the building that was built in 1883 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the future of Watson Academy uncertain, Bizzaro recently met with the school district's superintendent and business administrator to discuss the possibility of moving the recreation center to the school administrative office building.

"I think there's definitely a lot of potential in the site from a recreational standpoint," Bizzaro told selectmen at a board meeting Monday night.

The recreation center's activities have temporarily relocated to the elementary and middle schools while Bizzaro's office was moved to the town hall.

Selectmen hired SFC Engineering Partnership Inc. of Auburn in October to assess the damage to Watson Academy and prepare a report detailing the structural problems and recommendations for repairs.

A draft of a report was recently provided to selectmen, but the company is expected to prepare a more complete report with cost estimates and more information on repairs, selectmen said.

Repairing Watson Academy could cost anywhere from $100,000 to as much as $500,000, said Selectman Karen Falcone, board chairman.

Any proposal to spend big money on repairs would have to be decided by voters, and with town meeting just around the corner in March, selectmen said there's little time to plan a warrant article.

"Time is of the essence here. . The recreation department has been displaced and we need to decide what we're going to do with it," Town Administrator Greg Dodge said.

Bizzaro said it's possible that the recreation center could relocate to the school administrative building, which is owned by the town and has a field. Some renovations would be needed, but she said she feels it's the best option if Watson Academy is going to remain closed.

Assuming that it'll remain closed for the foreseeable future, selectmen voted Monday to winterize Watson Academy.

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