June 22, 2018
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Businessman eyes former school building in Sangerville

By Bill Pearson, Piscataquis Observer

SANGERVILLE, Maine — An Abbot businessman has expressed interest in purchasing the former Abbie Fowler School building to use as a storage facility. Jeff Pearl informed the selectmen on Aug. 23 that he was interested in using the building as a warehouse for his chimney sweep product.

Pearl told the board he had already contacted the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council about applying for a grant to renovate the building.

The selectmen are waiting for results of the soil test taken Aug. 14 before making a decision about disposing the building. The soil test will reveal if the land is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs. If the test produces a negative result for the contaminants, then the town would be free to either demolish or sell the building. If the test is positive, the town would be required to properly dispose of the PCBs in the building’s window caulk and in the soil.

Ransom Engineering of Portland estimated last year that disposing of the PCBs could cost as much as $400,000. The town had plans to demolish the building this year until the Department of Environmental Protection required it to have a plan for disposing of the PCBs in the window caulk and soil along with the asbestos in the roof at an approved facility.

Faced with an expensive disposal proposition, residents voted this year to allow the selectmen to consider other options besides demolition. If Pearl proposes a formal plan for purchasing the property, the selectmen may consider selling it to him later this fall.

Selectman Brent Randall proposed placing the potential sale of the Abbie Fowler building and the town’s woodlots on the November ballot. Randall indicated at the Aug. 21 special town meeting that he favored selling the woodlots. Sangerville Community Forest Committee member Toby Hall expressed his opposition to the possible woodlot sale at the Aug. 23 selectmen’s meeting. Hall believes the 1955 land transaction agreement between the town and federal government precluded Sangerville from selling the woodlot.

Town officials researched the municipal records on Aug. 27 pertaining to the agreement. Under the agreement, the town is required to use the property in the best interests of the public, according to Town Manager Dave Pearson. The federal government did retain the mineral rights to property, but town officials weren’t sure if they were able to sell the property. Selectman Irving McNaughton assisted Pearson in reviewing town records about the agreement.

During the special town meeting, McNaughton indicated that he believed the town has the right to sell the woodlot. McNaughton recalled that during the 1970s he was interested in purchasing the woodlot.

Pearson expects the soil test results to be known sometime next week.

The selectmen will also know if Pearl plans on making a formal offer to purchase the building by the next board meeting. Town officials also expect to know this week whether the town woodlot can be sold.

The selectmen will decide on whether to place the straw poll questions about selling the Abbie Fowler building and town woodlots on the November ballot at their next meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the community room.

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