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Epping's damaged Watson Academy getting attention from town officials

Union Leader Correspondent

April 30. 2013 10:20PM

EPPING - Selectmen on Monday agreed to form a committee to explore options for making repairs and restoring Watson Academy, a historic former school building damaged by an earthquake last October.

The board OK'd the panel at the urging of Carol Clapp, a longtime Epping resident who graduated from Watson Academy when it was still being used as a school.

Clapp and several others, including some who work in construction, toured the building last Saturday to assess the damage and create a preliminary plan for the repairs needed to reopen the building.

The town-owned building, which housed the recreation department and was used by other community groups, was closed after damage was discovered in the days after the 4.0 quake shook much of New England.

Clapp presented the draft of a "first-step proposal" to selectmen Monday to address structural problems.

The town hired an engineering firm to examine the building and outline a plan for repairs several months ago. In a report released in December, SFC Engineering Partnership Inc. of Auburn estimated that it would cost between $207,000 and $303,000 to fix the structural damage to the 130-year-old building.

Engineers recommended new floor framing and replacement, strengthening of the bell tower framing, and roof repairs, among other things.

Selectmen have expressed concern about spending big money on the building, but the proposal submitted by Clapp indicated that repairs could be made for much less than what SFC Engineering Partnership had proposed. She suggested the repairs could cost closer to $20,000.

While the lower figure may be enough to stabilize the building, selectmen said they want to make sure the building meets codes, which could cost more.

Anyone interested in serving on the Watson Academy committee is urged to contact Selectman Tom Gauthier at 679-2450 or Town Administrator Greg Dodge at 679-5441.

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