GREENVILLE, Maine — The planned 99-year lease by the town of the Shaw Public Library Association’s Fowle House — the library annex — hit a snag Wednesday.
Unresolved issues relating to the outstanding 2010 taxes on the building and insurance prompted selectmen to table signing the lease. Under the lease, the town would pay $1 for 99 years to rent the building.
“All of a sudden, there seems like there’s some expenses that are being thrown at us that we weren’t ready for,” Selectman Alan McBrierty said Wednesday. “I’m still not clear on this.”
Space problems have haunted the town-owned library for years, and that problem was exacerbated further when water and mold problems forced the children’s room to be relocated elsewhere in the library.
Because town officials did not want to incur any further debt, the Shaw Public Library Association, headed by the Rev. Robert Reagan, started a fund drive for the improvements. When the Fowle House, which is located behind the library, went into foreclosure in 2010, the nonprofit association went after its purchase for use by the library. The association applied for a $49,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help with the purchase.
During the wait to learn whether the grant was approved, Greenville native Scarlett Davis of Brewer purchased the property and donated it to the library before it could be sold to someone else.
When the grant was received, the association offered Davis the $49,000 and she “regifted” the money to the association.
The association can’t give the building to the town outright because if it did so, the association would have to repay the federal grant, Reagan said Wednesday.
Reagan said the Department of Agriculture received full disclosure of what had occurred with the building and had no problem with it. The $49,000 now will be used to renovate the building, which will house the library offices, the children’s room, a computer room, and a meeting room. When the renovations are completed, Reagan said, the library addition will be worth $180,000 and will be debt-free.
While selectmen appreciated Reagan and the association’s work, they were bothered by the fact the taxes were outstanding and were due by the previous owner. They also questioned whose responsibility it would be for the insurance costs since the town would be leasing the building from the association. There are no funds in this fiscal year’s budget specifically for the annex, Selectman Eugene Murray noted.
Reagan said the association’s insurance policy on the building expires on Jan. 28.
As for the taxes, he asked for a “conditional abatement,” meaning the board would write off the taxes and the library would invest its funds into the renovation of the building. Reagan did acknowledge that he recently learned that the library has “thousands and thousands” of dollars in certificates of deposit, but he was unwilling to dip into those funds until an audit was done. He said those funds could help with future insurance costs.
Somewhat frustrated by the process, Reagan said Thursday, “I never in a million years would have thought it would be so difficult to give the town a piece of property worth $125,000 once all the improvements have been made.”