May 23, 2018
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Rockport selectmen call for demolishing former school

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — The Rockport Select Board voted 3-2 Monday night to demolish the former Rockport Elementary School.

The vote was taken after three years of debate by the town on what to do with the building that opened in September 1953 as a school.

Rockport Town Manager Robert Peabody said the decision to demolish the building came after the Select Board members were presented with the costs of keeping the building. Peabody said the first-year estimate for repairs to the building to make it available to rent and for operational costs was $178,000. He said that amount would exceed any likely rental income to the town.

To make the facility suitable for renting, a water line would have to be reconnected to the building, the roof would need repairs, and considerable painting both inside and outside would have to be done, Peabody said. In addition, he said renovations may have been needed to meet code requirements for whatever type of activity the building would be used for. Those code improvements were not part of the $178,000 costs, he explained, and the expense likely would be considerable.

The school building, which includes the gymnasium, totals 40,000 square feet.

The 7.67-acre property abuts Route 1 near the intersection of Route 90.

The town acquired the property in the fall of 2009 when SAD 28 opened a new elementary school on Route 90.

The public works director has been directed to come up with a schedule for demolition, the manager said. Peabody said a combination of the public works department employees and outside contractors would do the demolition. He said the outside contractors are needed for such things as removal of asbestos.

The demolition could be done in late summer or early fall. The town also would perform landscaping to make the property look nice for neighbors. Part of the property is a ball field. The land has been used by the town for recreational purposes for approximately 100 years.

Rockport Select Board Chairman William Chapman, who along with Tracy Murphy voted against the demolition order on Feb. 27, said he did not oppose the eventual demolition but thought the vote was premature.

The annual town meeting is scheduled for June at which time residents will make the final decision on whether town money will be used for the demolition. He said that the board’s vote to demolish the structure ends any discussion by residents and eliminated any potential rental income for the summer.

Maine Media Workshop has expressed an interest in using part of the building for June, July and August.

The money for demolition is expected to come from money built up in the Commercial Street tax increment financing account, Chapman said.

The property will remain town property for the foreseeable future, the board chairman said. He said with the real estate market being poor now, this would not be the time to try to sell any of the land.

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