By Julie Huss
---- — DERRY — U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., came to town last week to tour a prominent downtown building and see energy savings in action.
Shaheen stopped by Veterans Hall on West Broadway to see all the renovations done in the past several years to help keep the 85-year-old building warm and financially fit.
She toured the building with town officials, who pointed out all the ways the building is now saving the town money.
Veterans Hall was built in 1928 as a tribute to the town’s veterans. It now houses the Derry Parks and Recreation Department and is also home to a full schedule of senior activities and programs. It is also home base for the Red Star Twirlers, Derry Special Olympics, and many other sporting activities and community events.
In 2006, a facilities master plan in town determined the building had several major problems requiring upward of $500,000 to repair.
Officials considered several options for what to do, including putting funds in a capital reserve fund.
In 2009, the town received $133,000 in Energy Efficiency Community Block Grants through the Department of Energy. The town added $145,000 from its capital reserve to help fund a multi-faceted face-lift for Veterans Hall.
Four major projects earmarked for completion included replacing exterior brick and other masonry work; structural upgrades to the roof; replacing windows and doors with more energy efficient models; and installing a new energy efficient boiler and radiant heat system.
Public Works Director Michael Fowler said the building will last the town for many years. Much of the work was done by town staff.
Those using the building the most are reaping the benefits of the work.
“We get compliments about this facility all the time,” Parks and Recreation director Eric Bodenrader said. “It’s really come a long way and the seniors love it here. The heat is better. They are so happy.”
Shaheen spearheads energy savings missions in Congress, including the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, to help the nation save more energy.
She said seeing the energy savings in action at Veterans Hall is rewarding.
“Everyone agrees we can be more energy efficient,” she said. “In my mind, energy efficiency is the first fuel, the most important way to address our energy needs.”
Town Administrator John Anderson said the building is an integral part of the downtown.
“We’re now keeping it as part of the Derry streetscape,” he said. “The building has gotten more life.”
Fowler said there are still some projects to finish, including some lower level work to create more storage space.
“We are seeing the benefits of all the work,” he said. “All departments were on board and we tried to be as proactive as we could to get grant money, and we got good results.”
Shaheen said Derry did a lot right when getting Veterans Hall back on track.
“This is really impressive,” she said.