SANGERVILLE, Maine — It appears that it may take two $200,000 federal brownfield grants to rid the former Abbie Fowler Elementary School of its environmental hazards, including asbestos.
SAD 4 closed the former elementary school in 2001 as part of a districtwide consolidation effort, and the building was given to the town of Sangerville after residents approved the transfer.
When residents learned last year that the proceeds from leasing space in the building were not enough to cover expenses and that taxpayers were subsidizing its operation, they voted to demolish the building and use the property for green space.
Before the brick building can be demolished, however, an environmental assessment is required. That assessment is nearing completion.
Town officials earlier had hoped to secure a $200,000 brownfield grant to do the abatement work, but Town Manager Michelle Dumoulin told the board Dec. 30 that more funds will be needed. She did not disclose the preliminary cost for the abatement work Thursday but did say it was “astronomical.”
The town is not eligible for the grant because the town was part of SAD 4 and may have contributed to the hazards, so selectmen hope to secure the grant by temporarily giving the building’s deed to a local 501(c)(3) organization such as the Sangerville Historical Society. Once the grant was awarded and the abatement work completed, under an agreement, the organization would deed the building back to the town for demolition.
The brownfield program provides funds for brownfield assessment, cleanup, revolving loans and environmental job training. The maximum grant awarded for cleanup funds is $200,000.
Because two grants are now needed, Dumoulin said the building would have to be transferred to two different organizations, so each one could apply for a grant.
“What we would do is basically split the ownership of Abbie Fowler, divide the ownership of Abbie Fowler, amongst two 501(c)(3) organizations, one being the historical society and then another one that Janet Sawyer [of the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council] has set up for this purpose,” Dumoulin said Thursday.
Preliminary discussions have been held with the historical society, which initially had thought its 501(c)(3) status had lapsed. Members learned recently that was not the case.
While residents have given selectmen approval to transfer the property, the society has not yet taken a vote to accept either full or partial ownership of the school.
Dumoulin said she expects to get more definitive information about the cost of the abatement project and the grant process later this week.