Trustees eye structural inspection of old YMCA

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BELLOWS FALLS — The Bellows Falls village trustees have ordered a structural inspection of the former YMCA building on Atkinson Street after a visual inspection by Fire Chief Shaun McGinnis revealed serious problems with the building's slate roof.

The trustees voted 4-0 Tuesday night to initiate the so-called "Committee of Three" outlined in its unsafe building ordinance to inspect the former YMCA, which is now owned by Bellows Falls resident Christopher Glennon, who hopes to turn the building into a community center.

Members of the inspection committee will include McGinnis, Rockingham's health officer Chuck Wise, and a structural engineer.

Glennon said Thursday morning he had met with McGinnis earlier in the day and was working to cooperate with the inspection. "I don't want this to be adversarial," said McGinnis, who bought the old building, which was originally a Methodist Church, from the Meeting Waters YMCA for $1 two years ago. Since then, he has been working to repair the building, which was the second church built in Bellows Falls. It was built in 1835.

McGinnis had flown a drone over the YMCA, which revealed more serious problems with the slate roof that originally believed.

Village President Deborah Wright pushed for action, saying falling slate posed a serious safety issue and the village would be negligent if it didn't do something. "I'm even more concerned," she said.

She said while the sidewalk along the YMCA has been closed for a number of months, falling slate would actually fall further from the building, and Municipal Manager Wendy Harrison said she had consulted with an engineer on the potential trajectory of the slate.

The trustees also voted to ask the Rockingham Select Board to close one lane of the two-lane, one-way School Street Extension to protect the public, particularly students from the nearby Central Elementary School. McGinnis said one lane was adequate for fire truck's access.

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Rick Holloway, the chairman of the Rockingham School Board, attended the Tuesday night meeting to urge the board to take some action.

Holloway said the school board was concerned about children's safety.

Holloway said the sidewalk was blocked off, but that kids used the sidewalk anyway or walked in the street. He urged the board to "make a better situation."

The board debated various temporary solutions to the falling-slate problem, including putting up scaffolding and putting netting to catch the falling slate.

But Wright said that could be an expensive, if temporary, fix.

Glennon said he had picked up five or six small pieces of slate from the roof in the past six weeks, but he said they were small pieces, and were thin, flaked-off pieces of slate.

He said one of the problems is that the iron nails used to hold the slate to the roof structure are rusting. He said his roof was hardly the only slate roof in Bellows Falls that was "shedding slates."

Glennon, an antiques dealer, said that he had signed a contract with a local Bellows Falls roofing company to fix the roof.

Contact Susan Smallheer at or 802 254-2311, ext. 154.


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