ASHLAND, Maine — With the 2010-11 school year under way at the new Ashland District School, townspeople are wondering what will happen to the former Ashland Central School, which was home to pre-kindergarten to grade five students for many years.
At the Sept. 13 SAD 32 board meeting, directors made a motion to offer the old school to the town “contingent upon a mutually agreed upon lease which would allow SAD 32’s use of the building.” The motion was approved by a unanimous vote of 9-0.
Town Manager Jim Gardner, however, said before the town takes ownership of the building, a feasibility study would need to be done.
“Many in the town would like to convert the building into an emergency/community center,” he said. “However, the first step in seeing that process through is creating a feasibility study to determine such things as how much it would cost to convert the building, expenses involved in heating it, and where the necessary money would come from.
“We just got an asbestos report back so we know what’s in there and what we’ve got to do to abate it,” said Gardner. “The next thing we’re going to work on is determining how much it will cost to demolish part of it.”
Gardner said if it makes sense, the town would “carve the wings off and just keep the nice part of the building.”
“We’d get the old asbestos part out and the old kitchen downstairs which is not code acceptable,” he said. “What we’d have left is between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet which would include about six classrooms, a library, a gym, a stage and two fully handicapped bathrooms.”
While some people have thought the town didn’t have an interest in the old school building, Gardner said that’s not the case.
“The town has a huge interest in it because our rec center is an old 1918 Episcopal church. That’s where the senior citizens and Rotary meet, and we’ve had water come into the cellar of the church,” he said. “We think we can really make a bona fide argument with the Community Development Block Grant people, USDA Rural Development and FEMA that slum blight, mildew, mold, and senior citizens and children don’t go together.
“We have five organizations in our town – Rotary, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, senior citizens and different ladies groups – and we could give each one a room and let them make it their own,” said Gardner. “The other room would be more of a central or dining area.”
The library would be retrofitted into an exercise room with treadmills, stationary bikes, and other equipment.
“The gymnasium, obviously, would be used as our rec center and the stage would be used for plays and other performances,” Gardner said, noting the town hopes to convert one of the two boilers in the building over to pellets. “Everything’s right there; but we’ve got to sell this to other communities – Oxbow Plantation, Masardis, Garfield Plantation and Nashville Plantation. We want this to be a district community center not just an Ashland community center.”
Officials expect it will take anywhere from 6-8 months to compile the feasibility study.
SAD 32 will continue to own the building until the town officially decides it wants to take it over.