STOCKTON SPRINGS, Maine ― Residents have overwhelmingly voted in favor of selling the town’s former elementary school, which was shuttered by the local school district three years ago due to mold.
At the polls on Tuesday, a referendum to authorize the selectboard to sell the school passed by a vote of 449 to 157, according to results from the town office.
Last June, Stockton Springs residents voted to accept the school as a gift from Regional School Unit 20 after the school district learned just how extensive the mold damage was. The school was also offered to the town of Searsport, but voters in that town rejected accepting it.
Knowing the school had a mold problem, Stockton Springs accepted the building “as is,” Town Manager Jennifer King previously told the Bangor Daily News. The town did not create any firm plans for the school prior to Tuesday’s vote. Had residents voted to keep the school, a planning committee would have been formed.
While the mold was bad, upon further testing, town officials discovered it wasn’t as dire as previously indicated by the school district. Still, it is estimated to cost between $100,000 and $225,000 to remediate the mold problem.
Since taking ownership of the school town officials have made some improvements, including repairing a leak in the ceiling that was causing mold spores to spread. They also hauled out everything from moldy library books to gym equipment to food that had been left in the cafeteria. The building was aired out by opening the doors in the summer and fall, and officials started running an existing air-exchange unit.
Despite the mold, which is still present, some residents in the town were hopeful that the building could be revived into an asset for the community. Proponents of keeping the school cited Orland as a positive example of how an abandoned school can be redeveloped. The former elementary school there has become the Orland Community Center, which is home to a commercial community kitchen, a fitness center, event space and rental office and business space.
Following Tuesday’s vote, it is now up to the selectboard to determine how they will move forward with the sale of the building. As of Wednesday morning, officials at the town office did not know exactly when the selectboard would take up the issue.