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July 07. 2013 8:05PM

Town hall repairs could start next week in Exeter

EXETER — Repair work could begin as early as next week on the historic Exeter Town Hall after a fire sparked by a lightning strike in April caused nearly $400,000 in damage.

Most of the building has remained closed since the fire sparked by a nearby lightning strike, but the town expects to have the scope of the project finalized by Friday to allow work to start, according to Kevin Smart, the town’s maintenance supervisor.

The fire on April 9 broke out on the second floor of the town hall and was contained to a room used by a local art gallery.

The town’s finance office located in the basement was temporarily moved after the blaze, but has since returned. The rest of the building remains closed.

While the fire damage was confined to the second floor, other parts of the building, including a first-floor auditorium often used for community events, sustained water damage.

The town hall was built in 1855 and was once visited by Abraham Lincoln, who spoke to Republicans there during a visit to Exeter in 1860.

The final price tag still isn’t known, but Smart said it should come in under $400,000. The town expects the total bill to be covered by Primex, its insurance carrier.

The bulk of the work will involve repairing original plaster walls and ceilings, including a tin ceiling in the auditorium; replacing a hardwood floor in the area of the fire; and refinishing a hardwood floor in the auditorium damaged by water.

Planning the repairs has proved challenging given the age of the building, Smart said.

“It’s an 1850s building so it’s not your average office building or residential building,” he said.

The town hopes the entire project can be completed within a time-frame of 90 days.

“We know folks want to get back in there and we want them to get back in as quickly as possible,” Smart said.

Some portions of the building may be able to open even as work continues in other areas.

“If we can accommodate people along the way that’s what we’ll do,” Smart said.

jschreiber@newstote.com


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