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Board takes stand against demolishing Squannacook Hall

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GROTON — The Board of Selectmen has met with John Estabrook, the town’s building maintenance supervisor, who reported on the condition of Squannacook Hall where the soon-to-be defunct Recreation Department was headquartered.

After an inspection of the 120-year-old building, Estabrook said it was in severe disrepair and would need an extensive overhaul if it was to continue being used without the threat of liability.

Among the items Estabrook said were in bad condition were a basement that frequently floods and a leaky septic system. In addition, there is no hot water available on the building’s second floor; the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); electrical systems would need to be overhauled and the furnaces were not going to last that much longer.

“It does have some serious problems, and it just keeps getting worse,” said Estabrook.

Estabrook’s advice was either to renovate the building or put it into cold storage in which it would be locked up and disused.

But placing the building in cold storage, some selectmen thought, would only accelerate its decomposition.

“You can’t just close a building like that down,” said board member Win Nordblom.

“Basically, the building is in pretty wretched condition,” fellow board member Mihran Keosian said. He guessed that it would cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to complete just basic repairs.

“Well, we’ve got to do something,” said board member Peter Cunningham. “We can’t just ignore it.”

All agreed that the demolition of the historic structure was out of the question.

Complicating the board’s decision on what to do about Squannacook Hall was the fact that it currently serves as the meeting place for the West Groton Boy Scouts, whose representatives were in attendance at the meeting.

Keeping the Scouts’ needs in mind, the board asked Estabrook to return to the board after he had considered keeping the building open for limited use rather than permanent cold storage.

Also last week, the board considered a presentation by Joshua Webber, of Beaudane Properties, regarding the company’s plan to develop a one-third-of-an-acre lot at 14 Station Ave. immediately adjacent to the Town Hall.

The lot had been included in a larger development plan for Station Avenue submitted by Beaudane earlier in the year, but that failed to win approval.

As submitted last week, Beaudane’s latest proposal is to construct a building on the lot under one of a trio of options including a duplex, a four-unit condominium complex with one unit reserved as affordable housing or a five-unit complex with two affordable units.

The five-unit scenario would make the lot too crowded, said Webber, and he preferred the four-unit scenario instead.

Each unit would include two floors of living space with one garage/basement level and up to seven parking spaces elsewhere on the property.

Meeting with selectmen on the issue, Webber hoped the project could be developed with the cooperation of the town under the state’s Local Initiative Program (LIP).

Not unfriendly to the proposal, the selectmen decided to take the plan under advisement and see what other town boards have to say about it.

A vote on the issue is expected to take place at the selectmen’s next meeting on April 18.

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