CIP Members Score Lions Hall as an Urgent Priority

By Alex Malm

The one potential future project reviewed during the July 31 Londonderry Capital Improvements Program Committee meeting was in regards to what is known as Lions Hall.
It was explained by Public Works Director, Dave Wholley, that last September after about 50 years of the town’s tennant of the hall the Lions Club vacated the building and the town has assumed the responsibility for the facility and its contents.
Wholley explained that the building dates back to the 1700s and last October they had an overview of the building done by consultants.
“They gave us a really good professional glimpse of what they see as some real potential problems,” Wholley said.
Wholley stated they were given an estimate of $1 to 3 million if they were to level the building and build a new structure.
“Leveling the property is not an option,” Wholley said, noting there is some historical value to the community and they want to preserve the look as much as possible.
Wholley said he felt comfortable with the figure of $1 to 2 million, which is what was presented to the CIP Committee for their consideration. He added that they have spoken to a number of different groups and people about what the facility could be used for one day.
“We see it as something that would serve well as a community center,” Wholley said, noting it could support ongoing events like Old Home Days, or Concert on the commons as examples. He said it could also one day be used for organizations such as volunteer groups.
Wholley explained they brought the consultants back to the project now that they have some ideas of what they can do with it and expect to see renderings of a conceptual design in the coming weeks.
“We believe it’s an important effort that needs to be gone through in order to save the facility,” Wholley said.
In terms of urgency, Wholley said in the last year it’s been vacant and like any vacant facility he said “you’re going to see rapid decay in a facility.”
“This isn’t something that we can just sit around for five, six years,” Wholley said.
One question raised by committee member, Sarah Meier, was if they could sell it to someone.
“It just seems like a money pit to me,” Meier said.
Wholley said there is a lot of emotional connection to it and being located across from the town commons and in the central part of town, overall, he doesn’t think it’s in the best interest of the town to sell.
Town Council Chair, John Farrell, said it has a lot of history to it. He added that they may move forward with at least bringing it through to the budget process and possibly to the ballot, if possible.
“The council is looking to move it to the ballot this year,” Farrell said.
Town Manager, Mike Malaguti, stated he sees a growing need for offering recreation in town, which the space could be used for in part for more staff and also it could be used to address another need, which is community space.
“There is no shortage of groups who want to reserve space for their meetings in public spaces,” Malaguti said.
Meier also asked if they could fund raise for it instead of raising taxes.
“Fundraising would be a great option if we had time,” Farrell said.
Farrell said they need to have a serious conversation during the budget process about what it would look like and what the voters would support.
The CIP Committee ultimately scored the project as a “1” meaning it’s considered an urgent priority and “cannot be delayed.”
A Planning Board workshop for the CIP plan is expected to take place on Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.

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