ASHLAND, Maine — Work continues at the former Ashland Elementary School, with a portion of the building designated for use as part of a new community center.
“Asbestos abatement work is nearing completion. Once that’s done, demolition of the classrooms will take place,” Town Manager Ralph Dwyer said recently. “They’re all coming down. What will be left will be the multipurpose gym, stage and locker rooms which were built around 1984.”
Once that project is complete, construction on the new center will begin.
“We’ll have a kitchen, a larger meeting room and a smaller one for use by Scouts, senior citizens and other organizations, as well as a maintenance room. It will be nice and offer a lot of services,” said the town manager.
The new community and recreation center will serve young and old alike.
“It will be great for walking, especially in the winter. It provides a place to go for coffee — a warm place to socialize on cold winter days,” he said. “Seniors prefer a smooth surface to walk; this will provide a perfect opportunity to do that. It also provides a healthy, smoke-free environment.”
By using part of the existing school building, Ashland is able to save some major money, according to Dwyer.
“We have a $300,000 [community development block] grant and have received donations from various citizens and local towns. We also received a $10,000 donation from Jack Gibson. We’ve received donations in excess of $50,000. The whole project is expected to run about $400,000. The remaining portion will be made up by the town of Ashland,” he said.
“We have to come up with the rest of the 25 percent matching funds for the CDBG grant. The town’s portion was $97,750, minus the donations of $50,000, leaves the town needing to come up with $47,000,” said Dwyer. “That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot for a town the size of Ashland. But we think it’s worth the investment for what it will mean to the community.”
Construction is expected to start in June.
“We’ve put it out to bid. The new addition will measure approximately 46 feet by 30 feet. B.R. Smith is the engineer on the project,” he said.
The anticipated completion date is September.
Since the school closed, the local recreation department has used the gymnasium for activities.
“The gym is used almost to capacity right now. We’ll have a bit of a transition as we have to shut off electricity, etc., as work progresses. It’ll be different for a bit, but activities are shifting outside more now, so it shouldn’t be too bad,” said Dwyer.
He said none of this would have been possible without public support.
“We appreciate the financial support of the local community who’ve contributed toward this project. In addition to using the facility for recreational activities, we’ve discussed using it for birthday parties, showers and other events,” said Dwyer.
For more information or to make a donation, call the town office at 435-2311.