Oxford County questions lease renewal for Paris homeless shelter

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PARIS — Oxford County commissioners might not renew a five-year lease it has with Rumford Group Homes for a county-owned property in South Paris when the lease runs out in October.

Rumford Group Homes uses the second floor of the two-story house at 40 Western Ave. as a homeless shelter for young men. The first floor houses the Criminal Investigation Division of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

On Tuesday, commissioners agreed to send the Rumford-based nonprofit a notice that they might not renew the lease.

“I think they need plenty of notice in case something is decided,” Commissioner Steven Merrill said. “It might be important to let them know that it is on the table for discussion.”

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County Administrator Scott Cole said in an interview Wednesday that the building’s two uses were “not compatible.”

“It just doesn’t make sense to have a domestic function alongside a law enforcement facility,” Cole said.

Rumford Group Homes operates three emergency shelters in Norway, Rumford and South Paris. The South Paris shelter is a furnished, two-bedroom apartment and case managers are available for those seeking help, according to the nonprofit’s website.

An attempt Wednesday to contact the nonprofit at its Rumford office was unsuccessful.

According to Cole, this is the second five-year lease between the county and Rumford Group Homes. The organization’s tenancy predates the Oxford County CID, which has had its offices on the first floor of the house since at least 2009, he said.

According to the terms of its lease, the county bears the cost of the building’s utilities and maintenance, and Rumford Group Homes is asked to provide a contribution to utilities when its budget allows.

The lease also requires Rumford Group Homes to apply for funding to assist upgrading the building. In 2010, a new $6,640 heating system was installed in the building, Rumford Group Homes covered three-quarters of the purchase.

Although the home provides an important service, the county should be able to come up with a more appropriate way to support its efforts, Cole said.

“If the county is going to help those less fortunate, there is a better way to do it than the second floor of that building,” he said.

pmcguire@sunjournal.com

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