GROTON — Hopes for moving quickly on the renovation of Squannacook Hall in West Groton were placed in jeopardy after the Board of Selectmen chose to move slowly with the results of a recently concluded feasibility study.
Uppermost in the minds of selectmen were the problems of parking and septic capacity. Both issues arise from the fact that the historic building takes up most of the building lot.
“These are very pragmatic questions that need to be answered,” Selectman Fran Dillon pointed out after the twin issues were raised.
Selectmen opened their meeting of Dec. 15 with a briefing from architect Kaffee Kang, of Sudbury-based Kang Associates, who was hired by the town’s Building Committee to conduct a feasibility study on Squannacook Hall. The study intended to show whether it would be possible to save the 120-year-old structure for continued use by the town.
Squannacook Hall had been the headquarters of the Recreation Department before that group was discontinued and its operations taken over by the Parks Department. Currently, the hall is used only intermittently by the local Boy Scout troop.
Among the goals cited by Kang for the feasibility study were the identification of deficiencies in the building itself and accompanying solutions, whether the building could be restored for public use, and if the building’s historical qualities could be preserved.
Regardless of how the building would be used, Kang said, there were a number of areas that would need attention. These include the strengthening of support beams, the creation of at least two means of enclosed egress besides the main entrance, and handicapped accessibility to the second floor.
In addition, Kang described the building’s heating system as “very old,” adding that its electrical and fire alarm systems would need to be replaced, insulation added, an elevator installed for handicapped accessibility, and drafty windows addressed.
If the building were to be restored as nearly as possible to its historical appearance, the architect suggested, then vinyl siding on the outside would need to be removed and replaced by clapboards, a pair of new windows added to the front, and the interior restored.
Kang also discussed how the interior of the building could be laid out for handicapped access and town offices, while preserving use of the second floor as a theater.
Acknowledging that septic and parking were going to be problems, Kang said that under her proposal, only five parking spaces could be created in front of the building and another seven in the rear.
In conclusion, Kang estimated that if everything suggested in the feasibility study were to be done, the cost to the town would come to $1.7 million.
Members of the Building Committee had hoped to apply to the Community Preservation Committee for funding, with possible approval in time for presentation to voters at the annual town meeting in the spring. That plan, however, could prove to be problematic if the concerns raised by selectmen cause more than a brief delay.
Selectmen Chairman Joshua Degen said he was willing to have the whole project delayed until 2010, if that was how long it took to get all of the outstanding questions settled.
Monday’s meeting ended with town manager Mark Haddad agreeing to meet with the Building Committee to discuss the septic and parking issues and see whether a solution could be found that would allow the application for CPC funding to proceed.