Uses sought for closed Cornville school

Posted Jan. 15, 2011, at 6:04 a.m.

CORNVILLE, Maine – A charter school, a community center, housing for the elderly – even a funeral home – all have been suggested as possible uses for the closed Cornville Elementary School.

Now, says Cornville School Committee secretary Brenda Hogate, it’s time for final public comment before deadlines for the March 5 annual town meeting. An article on future uses of the school will be part of this year’s town meeting, she said.

“We’re kind of running out of time as far as deadlines go,” Hogate said Thursday. “Melvin Blaisdell (first selectman) needs the article to get into the warrant for town meeting; he wants it the first of February to get it into the town report.”

Hogate said there will be two more committee meetings — one on Monday Jan. 17 and another on Monday Jan. 24, when the public will be invited to weigh in on ideas for the school building on West Ridge Road. Both meetings are set for 6:30 p.m. at the school.

Hogate said the committee hopes to invite a representative from the Mercer Community Center to hear how that community has fared since their school, and the elementary school in neighboring Smithfield, were closed in 2008.

All three schools are in Skowhegan-based School Administrative District 54. The school board voted to close the Cornville school in March 2010 and Cornville voters agreed to take over the building in November.

“We have talked about moving the current Town Office into the school, along with other town functions like the historical society and the food pantry and to make it into a community center,” Hogate said. “The other idea would be a charter school, we are investigating those possibilities. What we’d like to have at town meeting is an actual presentation.”

Hogate said the idea to establish a funeral home at the former school was raised during meetings that began in November, but committee members agreed the location is too remote to make that a viable idea. Tearing the building down also was mentioned, but it is considered too expensive.

Ideas for a nursing home or an assisted-living campus also were raised, but without someone actually interested in moving such a business there, the idea was set aside, Hogate said.

The committee found that the “pros” of keeping and using the building included the large number of rooms at the school, a gymnasium with a stage and a working kitchen, and the central location in the community with plenty of parking. There is good community support for keeping the building, which has a good water system, working smoke and fire alarms, the committee reported in meeting minutes.

Among the “cons” of keeping the building are the old heating system that needs repair as well as sewer and electrical work that may be needed to make the building a public meeting place.

Committee members also have raised the idea of moving town offices from the current location, which is a former private home on West Ridge Road, into the school. The house could be sold more easily than a school, committee members say.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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