Members of a group restoring East Derry’s Upper Village Hall say they are on track with their restoration efforts, despite concerns expressed by a resident at the Aug. 6 Town Council meeting. Paul Dionne, chairman of the East Derry Village Improvement Society (EDVIS), said the group has accomplished all but one of its 10-year goals.
Former Town Councilor Janet Fairbanks spoke in the public comment section of the Aug. 6 meeting. She referred to the 2009 agreement when the town sold the historic East Derry meeting hall for $1 to the grassroots group hoping to preserve it. At that time, Fairbanks said, the preservation group was tasked with doing the following within two years:
• Completing interior repairs;
• Bringing plumbing up to code;
• Bringing the first-floor electrical system up to code;
• Having a functioning heating system; and
• Painting the interior of the first floor.
Within three years, Fairbanks said, they were charged with painting the exterior of the building.
“The purchase-and-sales agreement is an outline of how this building is supposed to look now,” she said.
Fairbanks said if the town had sold the building commercially instead of for $1, it could have made a profit.
In a phone interview last week, Dionne said the heating, electrical system, air conditioning and insulation were all updated by January 2012. The interior of the hall was painted in the fall of 2011.
The only thing left to be done on the punch list is the exterior painting, Dionne said, and that will be happening in the near future.
At the Council meeting Councilor Brad Benson, co-owner of Benson’s Lumber and Hardware, said he had agreed to do the painting as an in-kind donation. The issue, Benson said, was the rainy summer. “We also rebuilt the front porch,” Benson said. “But we’ve had weather issues with the painting.” He said crews were scheduled to begin pressure-washing the building this past week.
Council Chairman Michael Fairbanks asked Fire Chief George Klauber if the building was safe and if he’d inspected it recently. Klauber said he’d been in there within the past nine months, and it met all the requirements. Michael Fairbanks also said, “We can amend the timetable if necessary.” Tom Cardon, the Councilor for East Derry, said he would talk to the EDVIS.
The facility has a busy rental schedule, according to Dionne, and it’s doubled from last year. “We have 60 renters scheduled for this year, and we had 30 last year,” he said. “We have weddings, anniversaries, a computer club, church groups and other nonprofits. The Kids Coop Theater signed a five-year lease two years ago and uses the building twice a week.”
Dionne said, “We hope to increase the renters, and invest the money back into the building.”
But Janet Fairbanks wants more accountability. In a phone interview Friday, she said that part of the original charge to the EDVIS included frequent updates for the Council and Town Administrator. “They have an obligation to come before them every two years,” Fairbanks said.
According to her, the last time the group should have come to the Council and Administrator was in November 2011. “They are in violation of that update,” she said. Fairbanks also said the group is in violation of its agreement by not having the exterior painted in a timely manner. “Four years later, it doesn’t look any different,” she said. “It looks like an eyesore in the historic part of town.”
According to its website, Upper Village Hall opened in 1875, and Town Meeting took place there the following March. It hosted Town Meeting until 1909. Upper Village Hall has also served as a fire station, grange hall, veterans’ hall, library, and boys club.