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December 20. 2012 8:47PM

Epping faces steep repair bill to fix Watson Academy

EPPING - An engineering firm estimates that it will cost between $207,000 and $303,000 to repair damage to Watson Academy found after a 4.0 earthquake hit New Hampshire in October.

In a report to selectmen issued Monday, SFC Engineering Partnership Inc. of Auburn outlined recommendations for making structural repairs to the historic building that until recently was used for the town's recreation center.

After the damage was discovered after the quake, the building was shut down and recreation activities were moved to the elementary and middle schools while the director's office was relocated to the town hall.

At a board meeting Monday, selectmen said they were concerned about the cost and would not have time to put together a plan asking voters to repair the building. However, citizens could still propose a petitioned warrant article seeking funding for the project in March.

The project would include new floor framing and replacement, strengthening of the bell tower framing, and roof repairs.

In its report, SFC Engineering Partnership urged town officials to seek historical and energy-related grants to help fund some of the work if they decide to move ahead with the project.

Selectman Tom Gauthier said he attended Watson Academy when it served as a school, but despite his ties, he voiced concern about asking voters for money to repair it.

"I don't think this town can afford $200,000 to $300,000 to put into that building because it's just a Band-Aid," he said at the meeting. "If we can get the money from . grants or whatever, that's a different story, but to take it out of taxpayers' pockets at this point I think would be extremely difficult."

In the meantime, selectmen continue to research options for housing the town's recreation department. Recreation officials have discussed the possibility of relocating to the school district's administrative building, but no decisions have been made.

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.


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