Trustees review report on condition of 66 Atkinson Street

66 Atkinson
The old YMCA building anchoring the end of School Street. Photo by Betsy Thurston

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – At the Oct. 8 Village Trustees meeting, Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison gave a brief report on the condition of 66 Atkinson St. The old Meeting Waters YMCA building was placed on the Unsafe Building Ordinance by the Bellows Falls Village Trustees last fall. On Sept. 17, owner of the property Chris Glennon permitted Harrision and structural engineer Todd Hindinger to inspect the building.

Hindinger’s report found the building in worse condition than previously determined nearly a year ago and that it is very likely that the building cannot be repaired. Harrison said the next step was demolition, but with a cost of $75,000, the Trustees were reluctant to pursue that option.

Elijah Zimmer, a resident of School Street, said, “I am not sure this engineer is the appropriate person to comment on the fate of this building,” having no background on timber frame construction or historical preservation. Zimmer also stated that the building is a “visual anchor of the neighborhood” and, if demolished, “Bellows Falls will lose its only formal avenue.”

Village President Deborah Wright said, “We understand its history,” but it’s been over a year that the Trustees have requested repairs, and the safety of the public must be weighed.

Trustee Jonathan Wright shared he would love to see this building fixed. His concern was the significant repairs required and the building’s potential hazard to the community. The Trustees issue was the continued requests for a reasonable plan, but that none of the major concerns or structural repairs have been addressed by Glennon.

Resident Hope Brisette encouraged the Village Trustees to do what they had to do, but wanted Glennon to fight to get the building fixed.

Glennon, who was present at the Trustees meeting, disagreed with Hindinger’s report and commented that he was in touch with Chris Parker from Guilford who has worked in building restoration for over 20 years. The Trustees granted Glennon one month before any decisions were to be made.

On Oct. 9, Glennon met with Parker. He later stated that they are on the same track that the building is salvageable and added, “We are looking at repair, not a major catastrophe.”

Glennon continued, “The sadness is the location of the building and its proximity to school.” Glennon also said that Parker is booked through next year and unavailable, but that he had contacted other contractors.

Glennon continues to pursue his options but said, “I do not wish to see it come down, nor the desecration of any more of our historical structures in Bellows Falls.”

The Bellows Falls Village Trustees meet Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House, and they will review Glennon’s progress and plans at that time.

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