ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city once again owns the Knowlton School property.
Regional School Unit 24 gave the deed to the land and buildings back to the city last month.
According to City Manager Michelle Beal, the state’s consolidation law had required the city to transfer ownership of the school property to the new RSU when the school district was created in 2009, even though the new school was already under construction.
“We knew it was only going to be for one year,” Beal said Tuesday. “We’d offered to lease the building to them for that year for a dollar.”
But the law was specific and required all school properties be transferred to the newly created school district.
Once the building was no longer used by the RSU for educational purposes, however, the district’s agreement required that the property be turned back to the city, Beal said.
The Knowlton School, which served kindergartners through third-graders, became vacant at the start of this school year when those students began attending the new Ellsworth Elementary-Middle School. The transfer of property back to the city was final in December.
That action paves the way for the city to move ahead with plans to convert the approximately 4.5-acre property into a city park. City councilors last year gave concept approval to the proposal, which would require demolition of the school building, and hired Woodard and Curran of Bangor to develop design plans for the park. Councilors are expected to review the final design for the park at their next meeting Monday.
The city has estimated it will cost about $120,000 to demolish the school building, including the cost of asbestos removal. There has been no formal estimate on the cost of developing the park. Beal previously indicated that the park likely will be developed in stages as the city raises funds for different portions of the project. Councilors also will be asked at Monday’s meeting to authorize fundraising activities.
The current proposal for the new park retains the existing playground and parking area and adds a variety of public features such as an amphitheater, a multiuse court with a synthetic surface that could be flooded for use as an ice rink, comfort stations with restrooms and changing stations, a pavilion, basketball court, perimeter trail and interior walkways and picnic tables.
A copy of the plans for the park can be viewed at the city’s website under the Planning heading: http://cityofellsworthme.org.