Peterborough reckons with looming building costs at the Community Center

  • The bee mural on the side of the Peterborough Community Center. File photo—

  • Voting at the Peterborough Community Center in November. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/27/2021 4:22:37 PM

The Peterborough Select Board and Budget committee mulled a proposed $30,000 top-to-bottom assessment of the Peterborough Community Center at their meeting Tuesday night.

The money would come out of the Noone Fund, budget committee Chair Roland Patten said, an old fund for recreation expenses that hasn’t been used for at least 20 years. There would be no impact to taxes.

“We were handed a big box that was built during the Cold War that was intended to be an armory,” said Town Administrator Nicole MacStay of the building, which the town purchased from the National Guard in 2008. “And we’re converting that into a community center,” she said. “There’s a lot to get done to take it from its original use to a community facility.”

When the town purchased the building, the Select Board intended its upkeep to be supported by user fees, and to keep its associated costs off the tax rolls, MacStay said – while also keeping fees low enough that the building remained accessible. In practice, however, the building’s financial support has not been as straightforward as taxes versus user fees, she said, and the town took over a portion of the building’s care and maintenance when they moved the food pantry in.

So far, the town has mostly used trust funds, donations, and grants to pay for upgrades to the building’s kitchens and bathrooms, ADA-accessibility improvements, and the installation of a pellet boiler for heating, MacStay said, but “we have barely touched the surface of doing an assessment on the building.” The town knows there’s asbestos in the windows along the ceiling as well as the roof itself, she said, but there could be other issues with the roof, floor, plumbing, wiring, and more. “We know that there’s gonna be a lot… We are looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars, I’m sure,” she said, but emphasized the value in knowing exactly what the building needs via a thorough assessment via a qualified, third party firm rather than attacking problems piecemeal.

“Ten years ago we should have had a good assessment done properly,” budget committee member Mandy Silver said, and that the town would still need information from such an assessment in order to sell the building even if repair costs prove too high to justify keeping it. “We can’t continue this discussion without good information,” she said, advocating for the assessment to take place.

The community center has broken even in recent years and has been able to cover utilities and general expenses with the revenues it receives, recreation director Lisa Koziell-Betz said, but there’s no money left over for any major overhauls or repairs that might be necessary in the future. The Community Center receives funds from the town when elections are held, and ConVal pays to use the athletic facilities, Patten said. This year, revenues are low due to the pandemic but heating costs have also dropped off, Koziell-Betz said.

“It may not get as much use as we envisioned in 2008,” MacStay said, “but it could with some improvements.”

“This process is no different than what the town went through with the Town House,” assistant director of public works Seth MacLean said, adding that the assessment proved necessary for many of the grant applications the town ultimately received for repairs.

The Budget Committee will meet next week to do an overall budget analysis.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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Peterborough, NH 03458


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