By Alex Malm
On Oct. 14, members of the Londonderry community had the chance to address their opinions on what the future of what is known as Lions Hall should look like and be used for during a community forum session hosted by Town Hall staff.
The forum came after a presentation made earlier that week by Public Works Director, Dave Wholley, and from representatives of Weston & Sampson, who presented the Town Council with a conceptual plan of what it could be used for.
Former Town Councilor and Publisher, Deb Paul, said since the town already spent funds on studies, “it would be reasonable beyond a doubt to fix the water issues,” and make it usable, which would be significantly less than the approximately $3.5 million price tag estimate for potential renovations.
Wholley told people in attendance that last year the original evaluation of the building cost about $18,700 and this year’s conceptual design cost about $18,750 for a total of 37,450.
Paul said it is like when someone buys an old house, you do the important work first like stabilizing the floor and getting the first floor done making the building usable, while waiting until we have a clear direction as to what the residents wish to use it for.
By doing it in phases, it will not be a financial burden and it will allow us time to look at all the options.
State Rep., Kristine Perez, who is also a Londonderry resident, said she was concerned about the conceptual design’s price tag, along with the fact that it didn’t include fixing the water problem and all of the things needed for a kitchen. She added that her biggest concern is that the project will be over $3.5 million.
“I’m a senior, we can’t afford 3.5 or anywhere near it with the way our taxes are now,” she said.
Dennis Martin, on the other hand, suggested they could tear it down, arguing that fixing it would ultimately be like “putting a band-aid on it.” One suggestion he pointed to is putting an outdoor ice rink there, it could also be used for other events.
Longtime Lions Club member, and 40-year resident, Gerry Gulezian, said the building has been the meeting place for the Lions for 52-years. He added that he has heard the talk of a water stream under the building and said there is no truth to that.
Gulezian said the best thing that could be done with the building is to return it to the Lions.
He also mentioned that in the end, residents will be paying taxes on a building they don’t currently pay into.
Ann Chiampa, a member of the Planning Board and Londonderry Historical Society, said she was disappointed to hear some people talking about tearing the building down, saying there is a lot of history there.
“That breaks my heart to think that it would be just torn down because people think it’s old,” she said.
Others throughout the meeting also mentioned the historical significance of the building, and called for the building to become a official historic building.
Later in the meeting, Paul also noted, that if they take their time they could have people put together a group to collect donations from different large businesses in town, to ease the tax burden on community members, “who knows we could raise a lot of money that way”.
One question raised was whether or not the forum was held in reaction to the forum conducted by a resident in town.
Kirsten Hildonen, the administrative support coordinator for the town, said it was her idea in response to that meeting, saying there was no staff working on the project there and they wanted to give people a chance to talk to them face to face.
“You could have spoken to the town first,” Perez said.
Wholley noted that he would be happy to bring people into the building for a tour and said since there is a chance that many people have never been inside the building, they may be looking into having an open house style forum to gather feedback from the community.
“Perhaps there’s a lot of people in town who never even set foot inside the building,” he said.
He also noted that the design so far is just conceptual and that no decisions on the future of the building have been made so far.
Another suggestion raised was fixing the floor to get it usable and then allow the Lions Club to resume using the building.
Wholley said if they were to spend money to fix the floor, some people may say they would want to rent it other than the Lions, which could cause them to go on a different path and make things more complicated, but said at this point nothing is off the table.
“That puts you on a different path,” he said.