Committee tells Belmont to rid itself of Winnisquam Station

BELMONT — A draft report from the town's Building Assessment Committee says the town shouldn't put one cent into the former Winnisquam Fire Station and should put the structure on the market.
Building Inspector Steve Paquin, who headed the five-member committee comprised of himself and four people with some knowledge of the building trades, reported to selectmen last night that he couldn't get the entire committee to visit the building.
"As soon as I mentioned it, three-quarters of them said 'why bother?'" Paquin told selectmen.
One-half of the building — which for years served as headquarters for an independent fire company — is currently being used by the Department of Parks and Recreation and the other half is used by the Fire Department for storage. It is not staffed by the fire department.
The assessment committee was formed this spring to evaluate all of the buildings owned by the town. Paquin told selectmen that the committee didn't evaluate the fire station, the library, and the town garage because they are "special purpose" buildings.
Included in the draft report are assessments of the old Winnisquam Station, the former bank building at the heart of the village area, the Belmont Mill, The Corner Meeting House, the Police Department headquarters and the existing Town Hall office building. There was also a brief assessment done of the empty Gale School that is owned by the Shaker Regional School District.
The Winnisquam Fire Station — or its proposed resurrection — is a perennial topic for regional discussion that includes Tilton, the Tilton-Northfield Fire District and Sanbornton. Since the Winnisquam Fire Department was disbanded in 2006, all four entities have discussed some kind of joint fire fighting use for the building but the money to actually rekindle the station that once covered the Winnisquam section of all three towns has been prohibitive and controversial.
This past spring, Belmont selectmen removed themselves from the resurrection discussion during a joint meeting held by the three boards of selectmen in Sanbornton. Fire District representatives sent their regrets but were unable to attend the Sanbornton meeting due to internal pressing business.
Paquin said a review of the building conducted by himself and one other member indicated signs of carbonation that indicate the decay of the concrete walls and a failing shingle roof.
He said he went to walk on the roof during the inspection but stopped because the "shingles were breaking behind me."
Paquin also said the rubber membrane roof that covers the old kitchen is "spongy" and he wouldn't walk on it during the inspection. He also said there is evidence of "black mold."
While the final report and the committee's final recommendations are not yet complete, Paquin suggested the Parks and Recreation Department could look to relocate on the second floor of the Belmont Mill, which underwent an independent assessment when the fourth floor looked to be near failure.
As for the bank building, Paquin said it was probably the "best" building the town owns. He recommended the town not the let the asset sit unused for too long.
"It's in remarkable condition for its age," he said, noting it is 73-years-old. He noted a slight crack in the rubber membrane roof but said there is minimal water damage. He also said it needs a new boiler and a few replacements for the drop-ceiling tiles.
As for Town Hall, Paquin said it is 103-years-old and is in "much better shape" than he expected. He noted at least one failed truss and said the chimney needs replacing or re-pointing as soon as possible.
He said it was "rocking back and forth" when the contractors for the village revitalization tore up Fuller Street.
He said the roof is near to failing and there is some evidence of sill rotting, some wood decay and some missing vinyl siding.
The Corner Meeting House is 113-years-old and he said some of the sills are rotted. Leakage on one side, Paquin said, is to the point where he could "squeeze sawdust and get water."
He said a part of the lower-level floor near the back stairs is "like a diving board" and needs immediate attention. The also said there are some signs that some of the windows have come unsealed. Some of the vinyl siding is also missing.
He said the Gale School should be dismembered and sold. Paquin told the board that the building has no real architecturally outstanding features and that it is a danger. He said it would fall down if anyone tried to move it intact.
Selectmen had some talk about asking the school district to post it or put a fence around it but deferred to the district for future conversations.