Parks & Rec has moved to Belmont Mill

BELMONT — The Department of Parks and Recreation has relocated to the second floor of the Belmont Mill, vacating the space it held in the former Winnisquam Fire Station.

On Tuesday, Town Administrator Jeanne Beaudin told the Budget Committee that the town has had "expressions" of interest in the former station and because the Lakes Region Community College had relocated its Culinary Arts Program from the mill building, the town relocated parks and rec into the second floor class room formerly used by the school.

"We brought it back to the village," she said. "It made sense."

Town officials have been taking a hard look at the historic mill and its future uses since they learned the fourth floor was ill-suited to continuing as a restaurant and culinary arts program.

In late 2012, the town learned the fourth floor of the mill was sagging. The problems were found when LRCC asked the town for some new carpeting to be installed over the winter vacation and Chef Patrick Hall mentioned a soft spot in the dining room floor.

Further inspection showed the floor was weak and, over time, officials realized that some of the reconstruction work contracted for during the restoration had not been done the way the town thought it had been done.

LRCC relocated, eventually landing at Shaker Village in Canterbury, and the town had  engineers complete a structural review of the mill.

The town also took an inventory of all of its municipal buildings and determined that the mill needed some work on the fourth floor and with the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system but was otherwise quite sound.

Officials also learned the old Winnisquam Fire Station was not worth repairing and was not suited to be a fire station.

With a partially vacant mill on their hands, selectmen looked toward the mill as a place to relocate all of the town offices some day and the relocation of the Parks and Recreation Department is the first step down that road.

Beaudin told the Budget Committee last night that the town is setting 2019 as a rough target date for the overall relocation.

Two-thousand nineteen is the year the town will have completed paying back the federal Community Development Block Grant loan that stipulates the programming uses for the mill, which directs its programming toward low and moderate-income usage — like the senior center, the day care and the doctor's offices.

Beaudin told the Budget Committee that Parks and Recreation Director Janet Breton had said that being in the mill and in the village is working very well for her programs.