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January 14. 2013 11:45PM

Bond proposed for Searles Building work in Windham

WINDHAM - Voters will have their say on the future of the town's historic Searles Building in March.

Town Manager David Sullivan said a bond article, which is supported by selectmen, would appear on the 2013 warrant.

"From a financial standpoint, this bond would work similar to the one we did in 2002," Sullivan said during a public bond hearing held during Monday night's board meeting. "We took a 10-year-bond for previous renovations at the chapel."

Sullivan said the building, located within minutes of Interstate 93, has proven valuable to the town as it offers ample opportunity for rental income.

Peter Griffin of the Windham Historic Commission said the $100,958 bond would be paid back using revenue from such property rentals, as was done with the previous bond.

Built in 1909, the school and chapel structures had fallen into disrepair over the years, with the project's initial bond used for roof repairs, among other things.

A new septic system, exterior painting, landscaping and repairs for dry rot in the tower are among the planned improvements next time around.

"We also want to make the building more marketable for weddings and events: that's our bread and butter," Griffin said. Granite dividers would be added to designate guest-parking areas.

A downstairs meeting room could be renovated to use as a "green room" or a "bride's room" when the facility is rented out for concerts and weddings, respectively, according to Griffin.

The town of Windham has owned the Searles School and Chapel since the early 1900s.

The town acquired the building during a trade agreement with eccentric town resident Edward Francis Searles, according to the facility's website.

The Tudor-style building boasts stained-glass windows and cathedral ceilings and was once used as a kindergarten.

Windham historic commissioners said they're hoping to get renovations completed in time for the summer wedding season.

The board unanimously agreed to move the item forward to the 2013 warrant.
aguilmet@newstote.com


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