By Paul Conyers
The fate of the old Lions Hall building at 256 Mammoth Rd., was a central topic of discussion at the recent Town Council Meeting. The structure dates back to 1769 for community use, where it has previously served as a place for religious services and as a Town Hall. The Lions vacated in 2022.
The fate of the now-unused Lions building proved to be a contentious topic of discussion in public comments.
“Tonight, we’re being presented with a detailed plan of what the Lion’s Building is going to be, but you haven’t heard what the people of Londonderry want to do,” said Christine Perzez of 5 Wesley Dr. She wanted to know why there wasn’t more public input on the building before the preliminary presentation.
Town Council Chair, John Farrell, assured the public “This is not a done deal,” telling attendees “This is our first chance” to look at the preliminary design with the First Pass Lions Hall presentation. “There will be multiple public hearings, there will be multiple opportunities to speak for this.”
Dave Wholley, Director of Public Works and Municipal Facilities, was at the meeting with Dan Tenney of Weston and Sampson Engineering Firm and gave the initial plan for the building.
“Our task was to ask what would it take to reopen that facility as a municipal facility,” said Wholley. “What needs to change so far as electrical, mechanical, disability access, etcetera.”
Tenney went on to explain that most of the initial assessment was to determine the condition of the old building and what repairs might be needed.
He proposed a new entrance that would include a handicap ramp with a “front porch” that would make it easier to access from the street with a terrace facing the town green. Space would be added to the front and rear of the building with bigger toilet rooms, a new kitchen, and a new vestibule. The plan involves some interior repairs and the removal of some closets but would seek to preserve as much of the interior as possible.
Tenny put the current estimated cost of the initial plan at $857,000 for site improvements with an additional $2.6 million for building additions, repairs, and renovations with a total cost of almost $3.5 million. Much of the expense comes from upgrades designed to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, combined with new wiring and fireproofing to meet safety standards.
The Town Council was concerned about this cost, with Farrell noting that “$3.5 million is a big number for this community.”
Funding is unclear, although Town Manager, Mike Malaguti, was looking into possibly obtaining a grant. According to Malaguti, the grant has “strict requirements” and might be difficult to get.
There will be a public listening session on the preliminary plans for the Lions building on Saturday, Oct. 14, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Moose Hill Council Chambers. Councilors will be especially interested in what to do with the building.