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Finance Department moves back into Exeter Town Hall

EXETER - The town's finance department moved back into the old Exeter Town Hall on Wednesday after a lightning strike caused a fire earlier this month.

With the exception of the finance office in the basement, the historic building on Front Street remains closed following the fire on the second floor that damaged an area used for an art gallery.

Other parts of the building sustained water damage. Kevin Smart, the town's superintendent of maintenance, said the town hall could remain closed for another two months, although the auditorium, which experienced only water damage in the fire on April 9, may open sooner.

The fire had forced the finance department to temporarily relocate to the town office building across the street.

Smart said no financial documents were destroyed by the water damage in the basement.

"There were some records that may end up being recopied, but we haven't lost any," he said. Meanwhile, selectmen are still awaiting a proposal for repairs to the building. Smart said Primex, the town's insurer, is working on a draft outlining the scope of the work needed. The proposal is expected to be presented next week. The cost of the repair work also hasn't been determined.

"We don't know how much that is yet and we don't know if insurance will cover it all," Smart said.

Fire investigators quickly determined that the fire was caused by a lightning strike near the town hall.

The strike caused the building's grounding system to become energized, sparking a fire that originated with a printed circuit board in a wall-mounted thermostat.

The fire was contained by a single sprinkler head activation and quickly put out by firefighters.

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