Stockton Springs, Searsport to decide ownership of elementary school building

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 11:00am

STOCKTON SPRINGS and SEARSPORT — The future ownership of the former Stockton Springs Elementary School building is being put in the hands of voters in both Stockton Springs and Searsport this summer. 

The elementary school shuttered in April 2017 and mold was discovered in August 2018. 

The Regional School Unit 20 school board voted to offer the school to both Stockton Springs and Searsport for $0 at its April 9 meeting. 

The upcoming vote on June 11 is only for residents of both towns to decide if their respective town will accept the building and land. 

The vote does not include a decision on future use of the building or land. 

Should both towns vote to accept the building and land, an agreement between both towns would be required. 

The building, according to a presentation from Stockton Springs Town Manager Courtney O’Donnell, includes 23,162 square feet on 9.5 acres with 550 feet of road frontage. 

The former school contains a gymnasium, kitchen, classrooms, playground, field and a small shed. 

The building’s current tax assessment is $15,27,860 though the assessment will drop more than $1 million due to mold damage and is currently tax exempt. 

The land’s current tax assessment is $328,000. 

If at least one town votes to accept the property, that town would gain control of the property and determine its future. 

Inspections would be required for asbestos and the accepting town, or towns, would need to investigate several long term options, according to O’Donnell’s presentation. 

The presentation noted potential options, should Stockton Springs be the lone town accepting the property, include fixing the building, demolishing the building and retaining the land, demolishing a portion of the building or working with investors and developers. 

If both towns decline the property, the property’s future would remain in the hands of the school district and neither town would have input in the property’s future. 

Fixing the building would include mold remediation, which is expected to cost at least $146,000, based on bids received by the school district on April 8. 

The mold remediation would gut the building, remediate all mold but does not include replacing walls, thus additional costs would be incurred to bring the building back to life. 

Potential building uses could include a community building or rental space for several business, which the presentation notes is similar to what occurred in Orland.  

The total cost estimate to fix the building is $225,000. 

If the building was demolished and the land retained, potential usages could include a fire station, community building, trails or additional spacing for community activities. 

The cost to demolish the entire building, according to a quote obtained by Stockton Springs, is approximately $50,000 with the total cost estimated to be $50,000 to $80,000, based on asbestos levels and removal of one underground storage tank. 

If demolishing a portion of the building and retaining the land, the gymnasium and possibly the kitchen would be retained while the classrooms would be demolished due to extensive mold. 

Some mold remediation would be required for the gymnasium and kitchen, according to a report to the school district from Air Quality Management Services, Inc.

Roof repair would be required due to a leak found in the gym and kitchen with damage to the walls and ceiling tiles. 

Options for the retained portion include a section of a fire station with add-ons in the future and a community space. 

O’Donnell noted the current fire station has problems, the biggest issue being a lack of space and ability to fit newer style trucks, meaning the current fire station will inevitably need to be replaced at some point in the future. 

Retaining a portion of the building would require ongoing costs including maintenance, insurance and management. 

Costs for retaining only a portion of the building are unknown, according to O’Donnell, since expert opinions and further investigation is required. 

O’Donnell also noted there is some preliminary interest from a developer regarding the future of the building. 

The cost of this option is also unknown, though insurance would be required in the meantime. Benefits include the potential to retain a portion of the land and would put the property, or at least a portion, back on the tax rolls. 

O’Donnell noted other factors for Stockton Springs voters to consider with a yes vote include: 

• Debt Consideration: Stockton Springs currently has approximately $75,000 in outstanding debt expected to be paid off in fiscal year 2020. 

• Funding: Initial funds for experts and investigation could come from the Stockton Springs general fund, which O’Donnell notes would not negatively impact the fund. For a larger debt, a municipal bond or traditional loan could be obtained, which would require the approval of voters. 

• Playground equipment could be relocated or sold. 

Information on what Searsport envisions for possible opportunities, should they be the lone town to accept the school, was not available. 

Reach George Harvey at: