TURNER – The current use of the Leavitt Institute building by SAD 52 came into question Tuesday night when the Board of Selectmen attached conditions to that use.

After more than two hours of discussion, which at times, was heated, accusatory and hostile between members of the Leavitt Institute Committee, selectmen and representatives of SAD 52, selectmen on a split vote endorsed the Leavitt Institute Committee’s conditional proposal.

The proposal would allow the school to continue using the same three floors of the building it currently occupies for administrative offices and student classrooms until June 30, 2004, at a lease cost of $7 per square foot.

That use would depend on the school board approving the construction of a new roadway from Route 117 across the middle of the Turner Elementary School playground, which would access a new 20-space parking lot reserved for town tenants in the building.

Another condition set forth was the renovation of the current parking lot adjacent to the building. The proposal also asks for space to erect signs on Route 117 for the Institute building.

“This is a strong-armed tactic and not in the best interest of anyone,” Turner school director Jerry Dubois said. “This is not negotiating in good faith.”

Selectmen Ralph Caldwell, who also serves on the Institute Committee, presented the proposal to selectmen making it clear where the Institute Committee stands.

“We’ve got something they need and it’s going to be a lot easier to get something (from them) now than when they don’t need anything from us anymore,” Caldwell said.

Kurt Youland, who has been working on the proposal with Caldwell, said, “We need to get control over some land and the town won’t get anything if we don’t negotiate now.”


When the town purchased the Institute building back from SAD 52 several years ago, it bought the building but not the land it sits on. Several strict conditions on uses allowed in the building were made part of the agreement because the Institute sits in the middle of the Turner school campus. The parking limits were also clearly spelled out in that agreement.

The intentions stated at the time included use of the building by the Turner Public Library, the Turner History Room, possibly moving the town office there and possible use by the school district. The school district and the library have been tenants since the building reopened.

Under a new state law, subsidies will no longer be made to districts for leased space after 2005 and the percentage returned between now and then declines by 20 percent each year. Due to this new law, two years ago the district entered negotiations with the town to buy two floors of the building. The negotiations fell through.

The district is now expected to present a proposal for a new administrative building and an addition on Tripp Middle School to voters in September. SAD 52 will continue to need the Institute space until 2004, even if voters approve the referendum.


Questions about the children’s playground being effectively cut in half by the new roadway were met with a suggestion. Caldwell said that individuals and businesses in town had been approached recently about donating money for new playground equipment.

The current wooden structure in front of the school needs to be replaced, he said, and this would be a perfect opportunity to open up the “back forty” behind the school for a new play area.

When asked by Selectman Lori Fish about the costs involved, including fencing between the playground and the river, Caldwell said that would be up to the school committee.

The proposal states the new road across the playground “would lessen the cross traffic between school traffic, children and future tenant uses of the building.” SAD 52 Business Manager Chris Trenholm pointed out to Caldwell there currently is no traffic problem. “There wouldn’t be a traffic issue if your intention, as stated in the letter, wasn’t to put the town office there.”

Town office

“Maybe what the town needs to do is reconsider selling them the two floors they want and taking that money and building the addition here on the town office,” Planning Board Chairman Jeff Timberlake said. “The superintendent’s office belongs there.”

Town Manager Jim Catlin pointed out the townspeople had unanimously made in clear at a public hearing that they want the town office to stay where it is and voters at town meeting agreed to start a renovation fund with the understanding it would be expanded where it is currently located.

Costs for the projects in the proposal were put forth by the Institute Committee with the town paying for the new parking lot and the district for renovation of the current parking lot and with both paying equal amounts toward renovating the current entrance road and building the new road.

The selectmen’s vote on the Institute proposal was 3-2, with Caldwell, Henry Gibbert and Lawrence House voting in favor while Fish and Jennifer Wadsworth were opposed.

Selectmen and the Institute Committee will be meeting with the SAD 52 Board of Directors to discuss the proposal at 7 p.m. Monday, May 5, at the high school.The meeting is open to the public.

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