Voters to decide fate of Presque Isle school farmland acquisition

Posted May 11, 2014, at 10:57 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The approval of a special article at the May 14 district budget meeting would add 34 acres to the SAD 1 Educational Farm.

According to Superintendent Gehrig Johnson, the district has been approached by a local investment group that is offering to sell an L-shaped, 34-acre parcel of land abutting the SAD 1 farm — known as the Lois Conant parcel — for $150,000.

“We see the value to SAD 1 in acquiring this land,” said Johnson, “but we will put it before the voters to let them make the final decision.”

At the May 14 district budget meeting, residents will be asked — through written ballot — “Shall SAD 1 raise and appropriate $150,000 for the purchase of approximately 34 acres of land adjacent to the existing school farm, which sum exceeds the state’s Essential Programs and Services allocation model by $150,000?”

If approved, the $150,000 would be included in the SAD 1 member towns’ tax assessments. Castle Hill’s share would be $4,770; Chapman, $5,625; Mapleton, $23,715; Presque Isle, $110,430; and Westfield, $5,460.

Johnson said that acquiring the property, which is located east of the school farm’s 37 acres, would expand and protect its educational programs.

“We’ve had a very good relationship with the investment group that owns this parcel for over a decade,” he said. “They have allowed us to farm the 34 acres for a number of years, and we have tried to be good stewards of the property for them. A future owner would be an unknown entity coming in, and they may not be as willing to work with us. We always try to look ahead, and this purchase gives the district a large enough parcel to cover any possible use over the next two or three decades, including the possible building of a new school.”

Also, a portion of the 34 acres has 300-plus maple trees that the school farm uses for its maple syrup operation.

“We’ve been developing the maple syrup program for three years,” said Johnson. “With a new owner, that arrangement could end, which would end the program.”

The district-wide budget meeting will begin 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 14, at the Presque Isle High School cafeteria.

 

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