Hampden council OK’s $24,000 environmental review for old academy

Dean Bennett, Hampden community and economic development director, talks about the old Hampden Academy building in Hampden on March 6. Town staff and council members will meet with Dan Lafayette about his proposal(s) to develop the old Hampden Academy property without tearing all of it down.
Dean Bennett, Hampden community and economic development director, talks about the old Hampden Academy building in Hampden on March 6. Town staff and council members will meet with Dan Lafayette about his proposal(s) to develop the old Hampden Academy property without tearing all of it down. Buy Photo
Posted March 18, 2013, at 11:05 p.m.

HAMPDEN, Maine — While little was revealed about any progress made on a proposal by Hampden resident Dan Lafayette to preserve and redevelop the old Hampden Academy facility, the plan got a big boost Monday night from the Hampden Town Council’s unanimous approval of funding for an environmental review of the old high school.

The comprehensive review by Credere Associates — an entirely female-owned redevelopment planning and environmental firm based in Westbrook — will cost $23,950 and spell out exactly how much it will cost to clean up any hazardous materials on the academy site before any renovation or redevelopment work begins.

“There are several suspect areas where there may be PCB-containing paint that will have to removed or cleaned up, but we don’t anticipate any other problems in terms of hazardous materials,” said Hampden Councilor and Mayor Janet Hughes.

Lafayette has come forward and made a preliminary proposal to pick up the cleanup and other related costs if the old academy space encompassing 20 acres can be turned into something such as a health care mall, business offices, hotel and restaurant space, or retirement/housing villages or units.

Some local organizations like the Hampden Recreation Department and Calvary Apostolic Church have already taken over parts of the old academy for reuse for youth programs and church services, respectively.

The council voted to adjourn Monday’s meeting and go into executive session along with Town Manager Susan Lessard to further discuss Lafayette’s proposal as well as its financial ramifications and other concerns. The session was closed to the public due to discussion of specific financial details.

Before talk shifted to the old academy, councilors heard a report from Hampden police Sgt. Chris Bailey about a recent Hampden Public Safety Department satisfaction survey completed by 155 people, most of whom are Hampden residents, over a few months this winter.

The number one issue in Hampden, according to 84.9 percent of respondents, is speeding. Distracted driving (73.6) and drug usage and trafficking (72.4) were second and third, respectively.

Bailey said in response that Hampden officers would be ramping up road patrols during commute times and would be more active by increasing “traffic contacts” (summons and warnings) by 10 percent this year.

Survey respondents also ranked crime-prevention programs, checking the welfare of senior citizens and criminal investigation as the most important public services in the town.

Other information shared by Bailey included the following:

• Respondents rated the overall performance of Hampden’s police department at 74 percent for good.

• Police response to initial calls garnered an 81.5 percent (good) rating.

• Community relations (96.5) and fire extinguisher training (95.8) were ranked as the most important services offered by the fire department and emergency medical services.

• The fire department earned an 89.3 percent (good) satisfaction rating.

• Only 48.8 percent of survey takers said they knew firefighters or EMS personnel by name or face, but 78.5 percent were happy with Hampden Public Safety.

• Hampden police will establish a public safety tip line for residents to use.

• Hampden Public Safety will create four videos lasting 1-2 minutes each to air on Hampden’s cable access channel to promote services offered.

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