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May 1, 2013

Community function room closes abruptly

Loss of function room has people scrambling

ATKINSON — An engineer called problems in the function room at the Atkinson Community Center “immediate and severe,” Selectmen’s Chairman Bill Friel said.

Selectmen yesterday closed the popular site, leaving many groups and individuals in the lurch. That includes people who had reserved the space for wedding receptions and graduation parties, groups that regularly meet there and more.

Recreation director Noriko Yoshida-Travers spent most of yesterday calling people to tell them the bad news.

“We have at least one function a weekend,” she said. “Wedding receptions, graduation parties and many other functions were all supposed to be here.”

Significant renovations are needed, including a new floor and replacement of a failing oil burner.

“We talked to the structural engineer and he deemed it to be unsafe,” Town Administrator Bill Innes said yesterday. “We want to close it so we can start to fix some of these things.”

At a recent event, Innes said, he noticed the floor bouncing while people were walking on it. He called in an engineer.

After selectmen reviewed the engineer’s report Monday evening, they realized the extent of the problems.

“We thought we’d be able to get another year or two out of the oil burner,” Innes said. “It’s only six or seven years old, but it’s leaking.”

Friel agreed the safety of the residents is the top priority.

“I just don’t think it’s something we can ignore when the engineer’s words are ‘immediate and dangerous,’” he said.

The community center was built in 1914; the function room was added about 50 years ago. The closure only affects the function room. But that affects a lot of people.

Yesterday, Evelyn Tallent shook her head at the empty room.

She had just finished cleaning up after the spring dance for LifeShare, a group for adults with disabilities. The dance will be the last event in the function room for months.

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