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October 15. 2013 8:48PM

Hancock meeting house restoration plans to be aired

HANCOCK — A public informational hearing will be held Thursday on plans to restore the town’s 1820 meetinghouse.

The Hancock Meetinghouse Restoration Committee will hold the 7 p.m. session at the meetinghouse to give the public a better idea of the work that needs to be done.

“It the first sort of public meeting, and it’s an informational meeting about the overall project,” said Dennis Rossiter, a member of the Hancock Meetinghouse Restoration Committee.

This is where the town used to hold Town Meeting, which is now held in the town fire station.

After the renovation, Town Meeting and dances could return to the meetinghouse, which also doubles as the Hancock Congregational Church.

The Select Board has agreed to support a vote at March Town Meeting to fund the majority of the project. The article would likely ask voters to allow the town to borrow $800,000 or $850,000 to support the project, Rossiter said.

Interest rates are so low the loan would represent less than $100 on the annual tax bill for a $300,000 home, Rossiter said.

And the town may not need to borrow as much as that, depending on what is raised through private fundraising and grants.

“We think that there will be support of it. People are still coming out of the recession, and we’re still not sure how much the community is going to be able to put into this. But the meetinghouse is such an iconic building in the village that I don’t think we’ll have any problem convincing people the work needs to be done,” Rossiter said. “If we can take advantage of the rates and get the town behind us, we can do it.”

The meetinghouse was built on the other side of Main Street a year after the original town meetinghouse burned down in 1819.

Around 1850, the town moved the meetinghouse across Main Street to where it sits today.

In the 1880s, the current slate roof was layered over the original wooden shingles, Rossiter said.

A major renovation of the building hasn’t taken place in more than 100 years, Rossiter said.

The slate roof is a major part of the restoration costs.

“We’re losing shingles, and it really needs to be fixed,” he said. “Everything is old and needs to be fixed.”

Updates to the electrical and heating systems are being proposed as well as adding handicapped accessible bathrooms and a platform lift to replace the chair lift that helps people up the curved stairway and into the church sanctuary.

“Preceding generations have taken care of the meetinghouse, and now it’s our turn,” Rossiter said.

mpierce@newstote.com


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