Still no progress on former YMCA building in Bellows Falls

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BELLOWS FALLS — Nothing has been done at the dilapidated Meeting Waters YMCA building in close to a year, despite orders, threats and entreaties from village officials to building owner Christopher Glennon.

Glennon, who bought the dilapidated structure from the Fall Mountan YMCA about two years ago for $1, has been promising village trustees that repairs were just around the corner for months.

Last week, Glennon met with the Bellows Falls Village Trustees to give them an update, and the best news he could share was that work wouldn't start for a month.

"The building is not getting any better and it's sagging visibly," said Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison, who noted the dialogue between the village and Glennon had been "ongoing for quite a while."

On top of the safety issues, the village is proceeding with a tax sale since Glennon hasn't paid the property taxes on the building. He said he would pay the taxes "within a few months."

The village had erected barriers on the south side of the former Methodist Church last fall after safety concerns were raised by several people, including members of the Rockingham School Board. Central Elementary School is a short distance away from the old YMCA, and children walk on the sidewalk, where pieces of the slate roof have fallen.

"It looks like it's caving in on both sides," said Village President Deborah Wright, who noted that the village still had fences on one side of the building, and she said the village would like to remove the barricades. "We need to be able to clear the street," she said.

Glennon promised that after Aug. 15 he would have time to work on the building.

He said he had been working on the inside of the building, removing debris, as well as the upper and lower ceiling.

He said removal of the ceiling had removed a lot of pressure on the building's structure, and that he had 36 bags of debris removed.

But Trustee James McAuliffe remained unconvinced.

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"It's doing nothing to improve the structural integrity," he said.

Last fall, the village hired a structural engineer to evaluate the building, which dates back to the 1830s, and was the second church built in Bellows Falls.

Trustee Jonathan Wright said that removing the lathe and plaster was part of the recommendations in the engineering report. "That's step one," he said, while stressing that addressing the roof trusses was the more important thing for the safety of the building.

And a tarp has not been put on the roof, he said.

While the village found that Glennon is violating the village's public nuisance ordinance, the trustees have not taken Glennon to court or levied fines because, they say, he has no money. The village has placed liens on the property, Deborah Wright said, to cover the costs of the barriers.

"I don't think going to court is advantageous to anyone," said Trustee Jonathan Wright. "You don't dig a hole with a hammer."

Glennon wants to turn the old church into a community arts center.

Glennon said several contractors have told him they don't want to work on the building because of the close proximity of three transmission lines owned by 1st Light, a telecommunications firm that bought local firm SoverNet.

Glennon said he is not eligible for state historic preservation funding, but that he is eligible for federal programs.

"I'll be back after the first of August," he promised.

Contact Susan Smallheer at ssmallheer@reformer.com or at 802 254-2311. ext. 154.


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