By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — Fixing the roof at historic City Hall will cost up to $1.3 million, according to a proposal sent by Mayor Ted Bettencourt to the City Council, with $800,000 of that obtained from the Community Preservation Committee.
“Repair and restoration of the exterior envelope of City Hall is among the top priorities of this Administration’s current capital efforts,” the mayor said in a note to the council.
Bill Power, chairman of the CPC, said that the city is required to restore and not merely repair the building. This is true because of pledges made when state and federal funding was accepted in the past and because of the requirements of using money from the Community Preservation Act.
“Ideally, we should have it the way it was when they walked off the scaffolding in 1883,” Power said.
The CPC takes a portion of property taxes for things like historic preservation, affordable housing and purchasing open spaces.
Over the years, some of the historical features of the building have been altered. But the intention is to return to the original slate roof. Surrounding it should be “cresting,” a kind of small, ornamental fence. In the old days, the cresting would have been wrought iron, Power said, but “that would be too expensive today.”
The original cresting was taken down and melted as part of the war effort in 1918, Power believes. But he said a substitute will be found
“We’re going to restore the whole roof in a historically sensitive manner,” said Power.
As part of the project, the ceiling at the Wiggin Auditorium will be brought back to its decorative glory, which includeded stenciling.
“We couldn’t do it before because the roof leaked,” Power said.
Circular windows in the attic and gutters are also to be restored.
“I think it needs to be done,” says City Councilor Mike Garabedian, noting that a comparable building would cost a huge amount today.
“And getting funding from the CPA helps us a lot,” Garabedian said.
The age of the building increases the cost of maintaining it, but Power said, “This building and the (Peabody Institute) Library are the two most important buildings in town. They’re symbols of public government in Peabody. It’s not just because they’re old; it’s because they’re owned by the public. And we have an obligation to keep them in good condition.”
The city recently dedicated more than $3 million for roof repair at the library.
The City Hall project and the transfer of funds from the Community Preservation Committee will go before the City Council at a special meeting Wednesday. Bids have already been received, and completion of the work is projected for the end of the year.
Staff writer Alan Burke can be reached at email@example.com.