PARIS — Selectmen on Monday night authorized Town Manager Amy Bernard to let School Administrative District 17 officials know that the town wants to take back the Mildred M. Fox School, which is the first step in securing the building for the town’s use.
Bernard said that a number of ideas have been tossed around regarding the school’s future, including a business incubator facility, a recreation/community/arts center and retrofitting the space into apartments.
The building, which is located at 10 East Main St., is currently home to Oxford Hills Christian Academy.
“The point I am trying to make is the school wants to get rid of this,” said Selectman Janet Jamison, who requested the topic be placed on the agenda. “We have first dibs. I think it’s foolish to sit around and wait and talk about this anymore.”
She added if the district kept the building and sold it, then the town and selectmen would look foolish for not seizing the opportunity.
She made a motion to accept the Fox School from SAD 17 as soon as possible and “bring it on home.” The motion was unanimously passed by the board.
“Their intention is to not hand it over until after school is out because they do not have space for their Adult Education Program,” Bernard said about the SAD 17 School Board.
According to SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts, the original plan was for the district to turn the building into its central office. This idea was nixed when the central office moved into the Western Maine Community College building in Paris last summer. Since the town previously owned the Fox School before the district acquired it in the early 1960s, the SAD 17 School Board is required to first offer it back to the town under state statute, he previously said.
Colpitts said by email Monday there are three lots that comprise the Fox School. The first lot is the one that sits under the school. The second is next to the school and contains the bus loop, and the third sits across from the First Congregational Church of South Paris and has a parking lot.
The additional two lots were purchased in 1962.
The building itself was assessed at $842,500 and the land is $105,400 but those are older figures, Bernard said. New assessments from the town’s revaluation have not been completed, she added.
“The (SAD 17 School Board) would have to determine if … all three properties should be deemed surplus or if they would choose to hold a piece for later educational use,” Colpitts said, adding he doesn’t expect the board to take any formal action on the Fox School until April or May. “I am prepared to complete the paperwork to enable … the transfer should the board declare the (properties) surplus and no longer necessary for educational purposes.”
Oxford Hills Christian Academy Administrator Steve Holbrook said in November that there are 54 students who attend the kindergarten through 12th-grade academy. A three-year lease was signed this summer between the academy and SAD 17.
Colpitts previously said that the lease includes a 90-day termination clause for both parties. Holbrook said the academy is looking at land to build its own facilities.
Selectmen plan to discuss the future use of the Fox School at their workshop, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, at the Town Office at 33 Market Square.