Newport hears plan for community center

  • An architectural rendering of the gym inside the planned new recreation center in Newport, N.H. It is expected voters will be asked in May for an appropriation to build a new center. (Courtesy Bread Loaf Corporation)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 3/26/2019 10:09:24 PM

NEWPORT — Tuesday’s informational meeting on a proposed $6.5 million community center drew only about a half dozen residents with no one speaking strongly for or against the plan, which will be presented again at the deliberative session on April 2 and voted on at the May 14 Town Meeting.

Selectboard members Todd Fratzel and Jeff Kessler said if voters approve the new 20,000-square-foot facility on Meadow Road, which would require a $3.5 million bond, the town will be able to meet the demands of its recreational programs and other community activities.

The center would have a 9,000-square-foot gymnasium and a number of smaller rooms including multipurpose, fitness and game rooms.

“This will allow us greater flexibility to make space available for many different things,” Fratzel said about the design and the multipurpose rooms, which can be left as two rooms or made into one large room. “That was a big goal of the board: make sure the space is extremely flexible.”

Among some of the sports and activities the center could accommodate are dancing, movies, a walking club, birthday parties, club meetings and lectures, as well as basketball, pickleball, wrestling and indoor soccer.

John Dale, with the architectural firm BreadLoaf of Middlebury, Vt., presented the plans for the center at the Sugar River Valley Technical Center.

Dale said planners considered three locations and settled on the one that places the facility along Meadow Road in the area of the ambulance garage, which would be relocated. The center would be adjacent to the existing Little League field.

On the subject of cost, Fratzel said the warrant article states that $3 million of the project will be raised through donations and grants. So far, the town has $1.4 million, of which $1 million was an anonymous donation.

Fratzel pointed out that the article specifically states the town cannot bond for the project until the $3 million fundraising goal is met.

If the bond is approved and the money raised, the first bond payment would not happen until 2021, and estimates say it would add 72 cents to the tax rate at a 4 percent interest rate.

A portion of the meeting focused on the current facility on Belknap Avenue, a former armory with 10,000 square feet, though some of that space is not usable.

The size means that multiple activities cannot take place at the same time.

Additionally, the building is in need of repair, including a new roof, and is not in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.

Fratzel said if the project is approved, the existing center would be demolished and a new building with six bays would be constructed. Two bays would be for ambulances and the other four for storage.

Selectboard member Jeff Kessler said waiting another year or more will mean a more expensive project, and, the way the plan is structured, the center would be open before repayment of the bond begins.

“This will be a focal point for our kids and community going forward,” Kessler said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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