May 27, 2018
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Ellsworth weighs options for former Moore school

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
The Bryant E. Moore School
By Rich Hewitt, BDN Staff

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city has yet to consider the best use for the former Bryant E. Moore School.

While it keeps its options open, the city is entertaining ideas to keep the building occupied.

The City Council already has approved a two-year lease with the James Russell Wiggins Down East Family YMCA, which recently moved its child care programs into the new wing of the school. It also will consider a proposal from Downeast Health Services, which has proposed moving its offices into the older, main portion of the building.

The building was vacated in September when pupils from the school moved to a wing of the new Ellsworth Elementary and Middle School, which is under construction.

Downeast Health Services has an application before the city’s planning board, which will determine whether the proposal meets city requirements. The planning board will review that application at its regular meeting on Nov. 4. The City Council has not yet approved a lease with Downeast Health, according to City Manager Michelle Beal.

“The planning board will look at the outside of the building, parking and those sort of things,” Beal said Tuesday. “The council is aware of this and would like to help Downeast Health Services.”

According to Beal, the council still needs to receive additional information about the changes Downeast would want to make to the interior of the building before it will consider signing a lease.

“This is a historical building and we need to know the types of renovations they would make inside in order to use it,” Beal said.

Although the building will remain on the site, the city has not determined its best use. During that process, Beal said, it will be good to have the building occupied while the council reviews possible uses.

“The building is not empty,” she said. “It’s really wonderful for the city. They’re in the building, maintaining it, heating it and utilizing it.”

The council may be ready to review a proposed lease by its next meeting in November.

Meanwhile, the Ellsworth Fire Department is eyeing the rest of the Moore School property as a potential site for a new central fire station. The city began considering a new fire station more than a decade ago and kicked the process into high gear recently, hoping to garner federal stimulus funds for the project.

Fire Chief Jon Marshall told councilors Monday that the city’s project had not been funded in the first round of funding, but said there were still funds remaining for this type of project.

Marshall presented a proposal to award contracts for a schematic design and site evaluation on the Moore property for a central fire station. The total cost for the design and evaluation came to $78,429, but Marshall noted the city had just $50,000 in the budget for this part of the project.

If the council approved the additional funds, Marshall said, the geotechnical work and the site survey possibly could be completed before winter. He said projects that are “shovel-ready” are a higher priority for funding.

“This would put us a little closer to that,” he said.

Councilors on Monday, however, were cautious about committing money to the project that might not be funded. They had just authorized the purchase of a new ladder truck at a cost of $718,000 and were wary of spending additional funds.

Councilor Jonathan Mahon suggested tabling the proposal for one month, until after the November elections. Several referendum questions deal with issues that could affect city spending, he said.

“We could table this for a month until the referendum comes up,” he said. “We may be looking at a different way of spending money.”

Council Chair John Phillips agreed.

“That’s $80,000 and we’re not sure what’s going to happen next year,” he said. “We know the state is going to reduce our funding.”

The council voted 4-1, with Councilor Gary Fortier opposed, to table the issue.


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