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The town has placed a bid on the vacant Bank of America building in downtown Epping. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)

Epping eyes vacant bank building for town staff

EPPING - The town plans to place a bid on a vacant Bank of America building downtown that could be used as new office space for the school superintendent and other staff.

Selectman James McGeough, who encouraged selectmen to bid on the building, said the offer would come with minimal cost to the town if it is accepted.

Bids on the building at 144 Main St. are due by May 8.

Selectmen recently voted to put in a bid because it could help the town's recreation department in its search for a new home after it was forced out of Watson Academy following damage from an earthquake last October.

The recreation center was housed in Watson Academy until the magnitude 4.0 quake, but the building is now closed and Recreation Director Nicole Bizzaro's office has been moved to the town hall while the school district is providing space for youth involved in recreation activities.

If the town were to take ownership of the former Bank of America building, McGeough said it's possible that the recreation center could move into the building on Main Street that now houses offices for School Administrative Unit 14. The SAU staff would then move into the old bank.

Town Administrator Gregory Dodge, who also sits on the school board, said Superintendent Barbara Munsey hasn't been inside the bank building to assess its space, but she has expressed concern that it may not be big enough to meet the school's needs.

Meanwhile, the future of Watson Academy remains uncertain. Selectmen estimate it could cost anywhere from $150,000 to $500,000 to make repairs and other improvements to the building, which has suffered cracks and other structural problems. Voters in March rejected a proposal to fix it up.

Watson Academy was built in 1883 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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