ABBOT, Maine — Seeking more municipal office space, town officials have been studying the possibility of renovating the old school building on Kingsbury Road or building an addition to the Town Hall.
Discussions on those two options and a third — to demolish the old school building — started a couple of years ago, according to Selectman Jan Ronco.
Residents have strong emotions about the latter option. “There is a lot of historical sentiment and then there are those who look at the cost factor,” she said Tuesday.
The decision will be made by residents at a town meeting vote, Ronco said.
The municipal office is cramped and more space is needed, Ronco said. “Our work is very inefficient because there is a lot of shuffling because things are piled on things and there is no room,” she said. Part of the problem is that the state has required the town to have more equipment, which takes up space, Ronco added.
Town officials enlisted the aid of University of Maine civil and environmental engineering students who recently completed a study of the costs.
That study showed the cost to add on to the existing Town Hall, constructed in 1979, would be $99,930. In comparison, the cost to renovate the old school was pegged at $211,300. The students also noted that additional significant factors to consider would be the ease of construction, cost effectiveness and a localized and centralized facility.
The U.S. Postal Service operates from one end of the former school and that operation will continue, according to Ronco. The school consists of two separate buildings connected by a breezeway. If voters agree to renovate or demolish the former school building, it would involve only the vacant building on the left with the two classrooms, she said.
Although the school building has been rented in the past to the social services agency Penquis and used by the local snowmobile club, it is now vacant. It costs about $3,000 a year to maintain the building, according to Ronco. She said a heater was put in the building’s basement last year to prevent damage but some occurred on the ground level.
“If the town feels that, historically, the building is worth saving, then perhaps there are some grants out there,” Ronco said. If the building is renovated, the town probably could expect another 70 years of useful life, she said.
Ronco said a town committee would continue to investigate all the options before the matter is presented for action.