Plans for new Rec Center in Newport spring to life again thanks to Shaheen




By ARCHIE MOUNTAIN

NEWPORT -- Thanks to a helping hand from New Hampshire U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Newport

looks to be on the fast track for a new Recreation Center.


During a long meeting Monday evening, Newport Town Manager Hunter Rieseberg announced that the

upcoming Congressional budget in Washington is expected to include $4.785 million to be awarded to

Newport to help cover a major part of the costs of a new Recreation Center.


In reviewing local support for the Center, the positive outlook for the project was full of good news.

"We're fairly close to what we believe will be needed from local donations," the town manager related.


"The next generation of Newport residents will benefit from this project for the next 55 years," said P.J.

years. He was making reference to the 55 years that the Armory building has served Newport as its of those years. He was making reference to the 55 years that the Armory building has served Newpot as its

Recreation Center. "Good things have happened to the good people of Newport," he added.


The first time around at the annual 2022 May town meeting, voters turned down Newport's bid to raise

and appropriate $8,651,000 for the design, construction and equipping a proposed new Recreation Center on Meadow Road at the location of the current Newport Little League Baseball Field.


Of that amount, $4,785,000 was earmarked to come from private donations, public and/or private grants

and other sources aside from municipal taxation with the remaining $4,000,000 to come from the issuance of bonds or notes by the town.


That article required a three-fifths vote of support for passage. It even failed to receive a majority support,

however, ending upon the losing side by 10 votes, 642 Yes to 652 No.


The difference this time around, however, is that $4,785,000 anticipated that will be coming from the

federal government.


Based on previous pledges of local donations, Rieseberg estimated the pledge gap might come up short by between $400,000, up to $700,000. At Monday's meeting Rieseberg announced he has been calling

individuals who made previous pledges to determine if they will remain in place this time around. "One

person who pledged $100,000 the first time increased that pledge by an additional $200,000 this time," he emphasized.


If necessary, making new, minor adjustments to the local money needed would not be an issue, according

to the town manager.


If things go as planned, Rieseberg said he believes the project would be ready to go out to bid by early

spring and construction might start by early 2023.


The building housing the current Recreation Center, the old Armory on Belknap Avenue, would undergo

some renovations and end up housing two Newport ambulances.


When the first vote was taken, one piece of literature said the new Community Center costs would

$8.6 million with at least $4.6 million coming from donations and grants or 54 percent. Not more than $4

million would come from taxes via bond or 46 percent, the literature indicated.


Features in support of the new Community Center listed six bathrooms, four of which have single stalls;

one large bathroom (female) with five stalls, one of which is handicapped and one large bathroom (male)

with three stalls, two urinals and one handicapped.


The building will be ADA compliant with seating for 500 spectators. The two lots that the town owns

equal to 2.2 acres (96,703 square feet); the building is 19,720 square feet which is only 20 percent of that

lot and the new building would be three times the size of the current Armory building.


Another piece of literature that arrived in the mail prior to the May 2022 Town Meeting vote listed

information on five facts.


Fact--The Newport Rec Center is old, under-sized, and in need of extensive renovations and repairs.


Fact-- The cost to Newport taxpayers to fix the Rec Center is estimated at $3.9 million.


Fact--The cost to build a new Community Center is estimated at $8.6 million.


Fact--If we pass the bond this year we have a unique opportunity to get at least $4.6 million in grants and

donations to help pay for the Community Center. Passing the bond means that the cost to Newport

taxpayers will not be more than $4.0 million.


Fact--If we pass the bond this year the impact to Newport taxpayers will be 74 cents/thousand. After the

first year the impact will go down every year over the 20-year life of the bond.


"If we don't pass the bond the Rec Center will still need to be fixed, the cost of fixing it is likely to to up,

and the donations for a new Community Center may go away," the literature concluded.

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