Dexter Town Council to put former primary and middle school property out to bid

Posted March 11, 2011, at 6:48 p.m.

DEXTER, Maine — After waiting weeks in vain for a local man’s formal proposal to lease and convert the former primary and middle school property into a nonprofit leadership institute, the Dexter Town Council voted unanimously Thursday to solicit bids from real estate brokers to market the property.

The council had expected Tim Wilson, who is affiliated with the Seeds of Peace organization, to present his proposed lease agreement Thursday for use of the Abbott Hill school property, which has frontage on Lake Wassookeag. Wilson, however, was unable to attend the meeting because he was a speaker Thursday night at the National Honor Society Convention in Orono.

Wilson, who submitted the only proposal for use of the property last year, told the council that he wanted to convert the elementary school into classrooms for a leadership institute for the sons and daughters of world leaders and other top students and adults from throughout the United States and the world. He also envisioned demolishing the middle school so a dormitory could be constructed to serve the participants who would stay on campus for three weeks at a time.

After several delays, the council gave Wilson 90 days to present a lease agreement to it, and that period ended Thursday.

Town Manager Dave Pearson, who was a bit annoyed Thursday that Wilson had yet to submit his final proposal, said, ‘’He’s kept us on the hook for quite a while.’’

The decision to solicit brokers doesn’t prevent Wilson from submitting a proposal and buying the property if it goes on the market, Pearson said. What it will do, he said, is attract more interest and generate some competition.

‘’I think we ought to start worrying about the town of Dexter, instead of what he’s going to do, ‘’ Council member Peter Haskell said Thursday.

Contacted Friday, Wilson said he understood the council’s position. ‘’They’ve got to do what they need to do,’’ he said, adding that he would continue to pursue his proposal.

‘’My idea is what it is,” he said. “It’s workable, but it’s not going to just happen right now.’’

Wilson said he has the program money but has not yet received commitments for the operational money. ‘’I’m hoping in a month I’ll be able to show them that they’re going to benefit more from what I want to do versus their waiting around for somebody else to buy it,’’ he said.

The wait for Wilson’s proposal has cost the town money, according to Pearson. In addition to heating the former school building, the town was faced with two sewer bills and building repairs that were not anticipated. Those repairs — to tighten windows and doors — cost several thousand dollars, he noted.

To help recoup the costs expended over the winter, council member Alan Wintle suggested that the town should consider selling some of the contents and the portable classrooms.

The delay in selling the lakefront property and the limited advertising done by the town in the past was criticized by local businessman Mike Blake.

“I’m a little disappointed in the fact that you guys have dealt with this going on two years,’’ he remarked. ‘’I don’t feel, as a taxpayer, that I want to see all that land left off the tax rolls. My taxes are high enough here. If we can get somebody to develop that and put three or four high-end camps up there and pay taxes, I mean that’s the way we need to go. That’s valuable property.’’

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