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Railroad station problems prompt special meeting

April 29, 2009
WOLFEBORO — Wolfeboro selectmen held a special meeting last Wednesday, April 22, to review and discuss problems encountered in preparing to make voter-approved repairs to the railroad station building. The building is owned by the town but rented out to the Wolfeboro Area Chamber of Commerce and the Wolfeboro Nursery School.

Public Works Director Dave Ford explained that on April 9, Shawn Bergeron of Bergeron Technical Services discovered about six inches of standing water in the crawl space under the building while doing an energy audit of the 1871 former train depot. Despite the water, he ventured into the three-foot space and discovered old steam pipes covered with asbestos insulation. He also took paint samples inside and out for analysis.

Because of the asbestos discovery, the Nursery School was told not to return until the asbestos could be removed and a more complete analysis done. The Chamber of Commerce also vacated the building.

The next day, April 10, the Water Department brought a sump pump and pumped the water out of the crawl space so that consultant Art Guardano of AG Architects could look at the floor joists. On April 17 after removing some rigid foam insulation, Guardano discovered that some floor joists were rotten. Over the weekend contractor Abel Artisan came in and removed the asbestos from the crawl space and the following Monday, April 20, structural engineer of Nathan Maher of JSN Associates inspected the foundation and joists and found areas of rot and brick foundation damage under the Nursery School area. Air was tested for asbestos in the crawl space and found clear, but the air tested in the Nursery School indicated contamination on the floor. The paint samples tested positive for lead.

Although Ford was reasonably certain that the positive asbestos test on the carpet in the Nursery School could have been tracked in from the crawl space, which was accessed through a hatch in the school, the structural issues concerned him, especially Maher's report that some joists were 50 percent rotted. He told selectmen that the current plan was to go a back in on Thursday, April 23, and clean up the school space and then retest for asbestos. He provided the board with a Preliminary Cost Estimate that showed $26,992 had been committed so far, including $8,137 for inspection and evaluation and $7,455 for asbestos removal. Ford estimated that the additional cleanup and testing would add another $4,000.

What Ford was looking for from the board was guidance on what to do next. He said that there was no danger that the floor would collapse and the basic building structure was sound. Temporary shoring could be done but he did not advise it, recommending instead that the Nursery School floor be replaced, which he estimated would cost $50,000. Beyond that the roof needs to be repaired, the sills should be replaced, the foundation repaired or replaced and lead paint removed from four windows. Ford handed selectmen an estimate "not a hard number" that it would cost $276,992 to address the new issues while fixing the roof and painting the building, as voters had authorized $145,000 to do in Article 15 last March.

Heather Larson, President of the Wolfeboro Nursery School, reported to selectmen that the school is looking at space in the First Congregational Church but as yet do not have a commitment to provide it. They are asking for state approval to use alternate space while the railroad station is being worked on.

Ford said that the school would not be able to go back into the railroad station building this year. His hope was to have the problems corrected so that the school could return in September.

Selectman Marge Webster asked Ford how long it would take to get firm numbers on doing the whole job and doing it right. She said she felt the board needed to know what the real total cost was before proceeding.

Selectman Linda Murray agreed. She said she was concerned about how the Chamber of Commerce was going to function with summer coming up. Having a grandson at the school, she didn't want the children to come back until the building was completely safe.

Ford said he would be able to get firm numbers by the next scheduled selectmen's meeting on May 6, but cautioned that the numbers will still be higher than the $145,000 appropriated. He suggested phasing the work so that some is done now and the rest is done next summer. He said he felt that the critical issues could be dealt with using the available funds.

Murray was concerned whether there were enough funds available. She pointed out that the town only has $5,000 for building maintenance, beyond the $145,000 appropriated for railroad station work. That figure should be adjusted in next year's budget, she said.

Selectman Sarah Silk assured Larson and the other school directors present that all safety problems would be corrected. Larson asked for information about the lead paint issues that she could share with parents. Selectmen Chair Dave Senecal said anything that was painted prior to 1974 has lead paint and that the FHA requires apartments to be stripped up four feet from the floor to protect children.

Town Manager Dave Owen pointed out that the town is the landlord in this situation and the school has been evicted. He said he assumed the town will abate the rent and taxes as long as the school is not able to use the building. Chamber Executive Director Mary DeVries said the Chamber is also temporarily out of the building.

Senecal closed the discussion, saying he needed time to review the engineers' report and to review the estimates Ford had provided. The May 6 meeting was planned at a worksession on capital improvements and the Master Plan, but he would put Ford first on the agenda. "We need better numbers," he said.

Webster agreed, adding that she would like to know the difference in cost between doing the work all at one time and phasing.

Suzanne Ryan asked if there would be any testing for mold. Bergeron said there had not been testing for mold but that he doubted mold would be a problem once the leaks were fixed and the crawl space ventilated.

ADA accessible meetings

Before the meeting adjourned, Owen reported that he had asked Town Clerk Pat Waterman to devote the Community Center on Lehner Street, where the April 22 meeting was held, for exclusive use of town boards and committees since it meets the accessibility requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He also said that the Wolfeboro Inn had offered three rooms for town meetings that were also ADA accessible.

Silk announced that the newly-appointed Agricultural Commission would be meeting in a classroom at the high school, which is ADA accessible.

Martin Lord and Osman
Salmon Press
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