ATKINSON — The Community Center won’t be reopening anytime soon. In fact, it may be razed.
Town officials have decided to pursue building a new community center to replace the current one, which is in disrepair.
The town had hoped to find money in this year’s budget to repair the popular community center, but have now set their sights on a new building.
“The budget is so tight that we don’t have the funds to fix the existing building,” Selectman Todd Barbera said. “We are going to use the time before next year’s election to try and come up with a design and price for the new building.”
The building would be at the same location — 4 Main St. The existing building would be torn down.
There is a contingency plan in case voters at Town Meeting in March don’t agree with selectmen.
Barbera said selectmen will include some $100,000 in next year’s proposed budget for building repairs. Repair estimates are about $160,000.
If voters agree to build a new center, that $100,000 would be used as part of the down payment for the new building.
The town closed the function room at the community center last month after a structural engineer deemed it to unsafe. In the interim, recreation director Noriko Yoshida-Travers has relocated activities to Atkinson Congregational Church, Atkinson Academy and Kimball Library.
But she hasn’t discussed a more permanent location for activities with officials since the community center will remain closed.
“In the summertime, there is usually poor attendance at the community center,” Yoshida-Travers said. “So now is a good time to start planning whatever they want to do.”
Town Administrator Bill Innes said there are plans in the works for more venues.
“We are looking at other larger venues for things like the senior luncheon,” he said. “We have a couple of towns which have offered space to us, and a place in town has also reached out to us.”
The building was constructed in 1914; the function room was added about 50 years later. Before it was the community center, the building was used as part of the Trinity House Camp, affiliated with Trinity Church in Boston.
Despite its historical significance, Atkinson Historical Society president Adele Dillon said it may be time for the building to go.
“I think it might be the right thing to do,” Dillon said. “You have to look at the practicality of keeping it. Everything comes down to dollars, of course.”
Barbera said the $100,000 in next year’s budget wouldn’t cover the entire cost of the repairs.
“I just think it has reached its end of life,” he said. “When we had our presidential election last November, it really showed the inadequacy of the building. There were so many people lined up in the hallway and it was four wide all the way down to the door. I was doing crowd control and it was a big safety concern.”
Innes agrees it makes sense to pursue a new building.
“Right now, we have to do a lot in order to get the community center to a point where it can be usable for just the next five or six years,” he said. “I’m looking to have a larger facility than we already have that the town can be proud of and can last 30, 40, 50 years.”
The floor, furnace and roof are among the items which need to be repaired in the current building.
Innes said he has started to look at designs of other community centers which have cost between $900,000 and $1.4 million. He hopes to have a design in place to present to the community by mid-January.
“It’s tough because we have a relatively short timeline,” he said. “We want to do this in a business like matter, make sure as we go through the process we don’t want to leave anything out.”