PARKMAN, Maine — Members of a school option committee that made recommendations for the disposal of the former McKusick Elementary School in Parkman and residents upset about the process clashed Thursday during a selectmen’s meeting.
Upon the advice of the committee, selectmen voted in April to sell the building, which was closed this year and deeded back to the town, to resident Kirk Kimball for $15,000. Kimball wants to use the facility for an assisted living center to provide care for the elderly.
Residents who spoke out Thursday were not against Kimball’s proposal; rather, they were upset by the method used to dispose of the building and the 4 acres valued at $672,000. The residents were critical of town officials for not soliciting bids, not advertising the project, and not holding a public hearing or town meeting before the sale.
Despite the concerns, selectmen on Thursday completed the sale of the building, which was renovated and enlarged in the early 1990s. As part of the sales agreement with Kimball, town officials will value the property as a warehouse until his business opens in about two years.
Kimball and a representative of a Dover-Foxcroft church, who were aware the school was being returned to the town, were the only two people who submitted proposals for use of the property.
“Personally, I’m offended” that the committee’s time and effort are basically being questioned, committee member Joy Gregory said Thursday. She said anyone could have served on the committee and she reminded the audience that residents at the annual town meeting had authorized selectmen to sell or dispose of the building in the best interests of the town.
But resident Ann Bridge, who did not attend the meeting, believes the best interests of the town were not served. In a letter read at Thursday’s meeting, Bridge criticized the process, which she said was “insufficient and inadequate.”
“I am appalled by what appears to be a you-snooze-you-lose attitude and [the committee’s] failure to even look at a multiplicity of options that might include better evidence that you are making a decision that is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Parkman,” she wrote. She asked selectmen to table the sale until a town meet-ing could be held to discuss it further.
Had the town kept the building over the winter, taxpayers would have paid $50,000 for its upkeep, which would have increased taxes even higher, committee member Elizabeth Morin said Thursday. She noted that the town’s recent tax increase had nothing to do with the former school but stemmed from the fact the town had been assessed at 76 percent of market value in 2009 and therefore lost revenues.
Morin, who researched the status of similar school buildings, considered Parkman lucky to have an interested buyer considering action taken by neighboring communities. She said Sangerville taxpayers had expended about $25,000 each year to keep its former school building and now are going to pay about $250,000 to have it removed.
Residents also were reminded that the town of Abbot eventually burned down its former school.
That didn’t faze Hartley Gilbert, who still faulted the process. “I would rather burn it than see it be given away for $15,000,” he said.
Other residents, such as committee member Wayne Libby, were pleased with the board’s action. He said it not only would bring a business to the community along with jobs, but also would put the property on the tax rolls.
While the new business would be good for the town, resident Joyce Martin said she did not feel that there was due process in the matter.
“All I want to see in a process like this is to have that go out to bid,” she stated. “If that went out to bid and the same thing occurred as is happening now, then there would not be any problem.”
If anything, residents urged better communication in the future.