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FRancestown

$880K needed for renovations

Select Board backing plan to raise $330K through bonding, the rest by grant

  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.
  • The first floor of the Francestown Hall shows the stage in the background through the doorway of another room.
  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.
  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.
  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.
  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.
  • The Planning Board finalized its Capital Improvement Plan recommendation to be voted on at Town Meeting. The main focus this year is on the restoration project for Town Hall.

The Town Hall began as a building for the Francestown Academy, built in 1847, and grew to be a social center for the town.

But since the second floor was closed and heat was cut off during the winter months, the building has gone unused for several years. Article 9 on the warrant asks voters to support a $350,000 bond to help restore the historic building.

“It was just used so much,” Heritage Commission member Maureen VonRosenvinge said in an interview Monday. Town Hall used to be the home for the annual Town Meetings, VonRosenvinge noted. The building hosted wedding receptions, baby showers, elections, plays, dances, meetings, fundraisers, potluck suppers, church functions, and the list goes on.

Before it became the Town Hall, VonRosenvinge said the building was originally built in 1847 as the final building to be used for the Francestown Academy — a four-year school for high school-aged students, plus an extra year to prep for college. The school was attended by President Franklin Pierce and N.H. Governor and U.S. Senator Levi Woodbury, among others.

Since there was no place in town for people to get together as a large group, the town began holding town meetings in the building sometime before 1920, when the Francestown Academy closed. And other functions started happening at the Town Hall, too. “It was used as a church for a while,” VonRosenvinge added.

Use of the building grew over the years as contra dances and other social gatherings, like performances by acting groups that would stay in town for awhile, continued and the hall was a place for people to stay connected with each other. “What kind of community do we want to be? Do we want to be connected?” VonRosenvinge said, expressing her support for the restoration.

She said there is not much in town to keep people in touch: “We have the store and the library and that’s it. You say hi to someone and then you pass like ships in the night.”

In more recent town history, VonRosenvinge said the fireman’s supper was always held on the second floor of the hall, up until seven years ago. It was at this same time that the use of the Town Hall started to decrease, VonRosenvinge said. Shortly after closing the second floor, the town began turning off the heat to the building in the winter to save money. “And we need a building like this in the winter,” she said. “It’s a place where we can gather and get to know each other.”

To help do that, the Select Board, with the support of the Planning Board, drafted an article for the warrant calling for a $350,000 bond to help fund a restoration project estimated to cost $880,000.

Talk of the bond took up the majority of the town’s budget hearing on Feb. 11. It would be open full-time, year-round and the second floor would be usable for the first time in many years, VonRosenvinge said. The building would be well-insulated, have a new heating system and permanent plumbing, meet safety standards and ADA compliance, including a handicap-accessible bathroom.

VonRosenvinge said in an interview Wednesday that the Legislature is planning to provide full funding to LCHIP in 2014 and 2015, which is not always the case. The deadline for LCHIP applications is Oct. 14, she said, and with guaranteed funding for 2015 when the project would start the current time frame could help ensure a grant. “I really want the town to realize we have an opportunity,” VonRosenvinge said.

Because there is no money in the building portion of the Capital Improvement Plan, VonRosenvinge said that the best chance the town has would be to apply for a grant from LCHIP and show that the town can come up with matching funds. “LCHIP wants to know that the town supports [the project],” Select Board Chair Betsy Hardwick said at the hearing.

This support begins with voting in favor of a bond, VonRosenvinge said, which would not be issued until LCHIP guarantees funding.

VonRosenvinge and architect Mike Petrovick of Francestown have come up with an estimate for the restoration of $880,000, but VonRosenvinge said this could be higher than the actual cost. Petrovick has donated his architectural services to this project, an estimated savings of $60,000 to $70,000, VonRosenvinge said.

This article requires a two-thirds vote to pass and based on a 10-year term, the first full year tax impact is roughly estimated at 23-cents per $1,000, according to the article. This is recommended by the Select Board, but is not recommended by the Budget Advisory Committee.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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