BELLOWS FALLS – It is increasingly likely that the old YMCA Meeting Waters building on Atkinson Street will be demolished.
That’s the word of Managing Director Scott Pickup, who briefed the Rockingham Select board last week on the town and the village’s ongoing battle with the dilapidated building.
The town and village have spent thousands of dollars on barriers to keep the public away from the building, located across from Central Elementary School.
The Old Methodist Church, located at 66 Atkinson Street, was at one time the second oldest church in the village, dating from 1835. The current owner, Christopher Glennon of Bellows Falls, does not have the financial resources to do anything. either with the building, said Pickup.
Glennon bought the dilapidated building in 2017 for $ 1 from Meeting Waters YMCA, which left the building in 2014 and left it to deteriorate. In 2018, Glennon said he wanted to turn the old church into a community art center.
The building’s steeple is of particular concern to city officials, as it could collapse into surrounding streets, be it Atkinson Street or School Street.
Pickup said it was surprised the structure survived last winter. “It’s amazing to me that we haven’t had a structural collapse,” he said.
Board member Elijah Zimmer called on the city to invest the money it was going to spend to demolish it – over $ 100,000 – in the repair so that a developer could be hired to save the building.
But the board’s appetite for this strategy seemed nonexistent.
Pickup said the town and village were working cooperatively, given the various ordinances, to get action on the building. So far, between fencing, engineering reports, and legal fees, the city has spent $ 17,000 trying to get Glennon to do something to improve the condition of the building.
In anticipation of the demolition, Pickup said the asbestos in the building was being processed.
He said the town and village would have a “host of options” on what to do with the property once the building is removed. The lot is actually relatively small, he said.
The city has set aside $ 40,000 in a special hazardous building fund, said Rick Cowan, Select board member.
And some board members asked if there was any salvage value for the structure, whether it was beams or a slate roof.
Zimmer said there was a lot of valuable material in the building, although the historic stained glass windows – except one – had already been removed and sold.
“Is there an alternative to demolition? Zimmer said. A 2020 engineer report said it would cost between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 to stabilize the building, Zimmer said.
“The only viable option is demolition and rebuilding,” said Pickup. “It was not going to be salvageable,” he said.
“There’s no hope for that,” said Bonnie North, a board member for Select, who said she spent an afternoon in the building with an engineer a few years ago. “And it’s a lot worse now,” she said.
North and others asked if there were any “pieces” that could be saved, especially the only stained glass window left at the front of the building.
The window, which depicts Jesus, can be repaired, Zimmer said.
The fate of the building is expected to be discussed at the next joint meeting later this month between the Rockingham Select Board of Directors and the Bellows Falls Village Board of Directors.