Rural Maine elementary school revived as assisted living facility

Posted Jan. 31, 2017, at 3:19 p.m.

FRANKFORT, Maine — A shuttered elementary school in rural Waldo County is getting a new life as a home for the elderly.

Jake and Rhonda Chambers, owners of Adult Family Care Homes of Maine, purchased the former Frankfort Elementary School from the town in November 2016. Now, they’re converting the building into an assisted living facility with 16 beds.

Frankfort Assisted Living could open its doors to its first residents as soon as mid-May.

“We go where the need is,” Jake Chambers, 63, said, explaining why his business is expanding to Frankfort.

Adult Family Care Homes of Maine operates assisted living facilities in Calais, Bucksport and Pittsfield. Chambers said he has fielded a lot of calls from elderly residents in the Frankfort and Belfast area, and he wanted to open a facility nearby.

“Once you start getting a wait list, it’s time to expand,” Chambers said Tuesday during a tour of the building.

The town put the former school on the market in 2015. Two years earlier, the Frankfort residents voted to leave Regional School Unit 20 to join Hampden, Winterport and Newburgh in School Administrative District 22, leading to the shuttering of Frankfort’s K-5 school on North Searsport Road.

Chambers said he purchased the property, including about 14 acres of undeveloped land behind the building, for about $100,000 in November after lengthy negotiations with the town. The empty land could be developed into senior housing in the future, Chambers said.

The sale price was much lower than the original $249,000 listing, but the town was motivated to sell the property so it could stop paying to heat and maintain an empty structure, and at the same time, get the building on the tax rolls for the first time.

Chambers plans to invest about $350,000 in renovations, with him, his son John, and two other workers handling construction. The building, built in 1970, was well maintained, serving as the temporary town office after the school closed. Chambers said he looked at other former schools to convert in similar projects, but they weren’t in nearly as good shape.

The facility will include a mixture of rooms meant for individuals or couples, as well as larger shared suites. Each unit has its own kitchenette and restrooms.

A staff of 12-15 will serve three meals per day, dispense medications and ensure residents are cared for. The facility also will provide transportation to doctor’s appointments.

The dining room is being built in the gymnasium where the school’s stage used to be. The rest of the gymnasium will be left open and could serve as space for town meetings or events, Chambers said.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.

 

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