By Chris Paul
Londonderry officials recently announced they were exploring options for the renovation and re-opening of the town-owned building at 256 Mammoth Road, known as the Lions Hall, after a number of residents met to discuss possible uses for the building.
Town staff and officials will be continuing those discussions in a public listening session in the Moose Hill Council Chambers at Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
The building was also formerly known as the Reverend William Morrison Meeting House and was a gathering place for hundreds of years, first as a church, then a town hall, and most recently as host to community organizations and events.
The structure dates back to 1769, making it an important part of Londonderry’s history. It was originally located at the intersection of Hovey and Pillsbury Road.
In a meeting that took place on Tuesday night, Sept. 12, at the Leach Library, a group of residents met to discuss possible uses for the building, hoping they could later present those findings to town officials.
Resident, Shaun Faber, organized the meeting and acted as a moderator during the 90-minute session and felt there hasn’t been a chance for community members to express their thoughts on the future of the building and this meeting would give folk an outlet.
The only town official attending the meeting was Town Council Chairman, John Farrell, who offered information he was told about the state of the building’s foundation.
Saying, there is significant problems with the foundation due to water running beneath the structure and in order to do anything with the building, a proper foundation would be necessary, this would most likely mean lifting the building and cost a great deal of money. He mentioned a figure of about $3 million.
Farrell felt that the voters would not pass a warrant article for $3M and thought a much lower figure would need to be proposed.
Former Town Councilor and Londonderry Times publisher, Deb Paul, expressed her feelings on the subject, saying that determining a dollar figure should come after the residents of Londonderry settle on a use for the building.
She said, “At the end of the day, the council has the decision, but the building belongs to, we the people, of Londonderry.”
Paul said that while on the council she suggested a number of surveys be done to determine what people want the use of the building to be.
Londonderry State Rep., Kristine Perez, added that she had spoke to a number of people in her neighborhood, The Nevins Retirement Community, and all felt nothing should be spent on the building.
A number of people at the meeting disagreed, saying the history of the building would outweigh the cost needed to maintain it.
One thing made clear at the meeting was that if nothing is done to the foundation of the structure in the near future, the building would deteriorate very quickly.
Resident, Tom Estey, suggested the town have a discussion with the Department of Public Works (DPW) on what they would be able to do in regard to diverting the ground water that is destroying the foundation.
Farrell responded that with the limited staff at the DPW, he wasn’t sure that was a viable option.
Some of the ideas expressed for the use of the building were: a community center, where civic groups and residents could gather; an annex for Town Hall; a small performance center; and selling the building or demolishing the structure was also discussed.
There will be chances for people to speak publicly on the future of the building during the upcoming town budget meetings as well as the listening session taking place at Town Hall on Saturday, Oct. 14.