PARIS — The SAD 17 Operations Committee is looking at the district’s need to retain ownership of the former Mildred Fox Elementary School in Paris.

The 1882, three-story brick building in Market Square is leased on an annual basis by the Oxford Hills Christian Academy, a K-12 school serving the Oxford Hills area. SAD 17 vacated the school in the winter of 2007 when the new Paris Elementary School on High Street was opened.

“The district has always maintained the Fox site, thinking long term that it could become a site for the district’s central offices,” SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said. “Now that we have moved into the University College center, we need to re-evaluate our need to retain the Fox School.”

SAD 17 signed a lease with the Western Maine University and Community College Center on Route 26 in Paris in mid-May and moved its administration offices from the Oxford Plaza to the second floor of the center earlier this month. The district had been leasing space at the Oxford Plaza from owner Bob Bahre but owns the community center, leasing out space to the college.

Christian Academy Administrator Stephen Holbrook said Wednesday that the academy is aware of the district’s possible plans to dispose of the Fox School building, and it has for some time been looking into other space options for its 40-plus students and staff.

“As a tenant, the Christian School has expressed interest in the disposition of the building,” Colpitts said. “It is too early in the process to say if they would be interested in purchasing the facility. There are legal steps to disposing of school property that must be researched and followed.”

“We don’t know what options there will be,” Holbrook said.

In 2012, Oxford Hills School District directors approved a study of the former Mildred Fox School in hopes of solving a space problem at Oxford Hills Middle School. It was determined the building was not an option and ultimately space was leased in Oxford for a second campus for some of its students. Renovating the Fox School on East Main Street would have cost about $1 million.

The property contains the school and about an acre of fenced-in land. The 14,000-square-foot building underwent a renovation in the 1940s. In 1985 it was gutted, removing all environmental hazards. A new roof was added about 10 years ago.

In 2007, Paris selectmen unanimously voted to indicate their interest in the building, but said at that time they did not have a specific use in mind. If the school relinquishes ownership of the building, the town could acquire it at no cost.

The district is responsible for the maintenance of the Fox School, but the Christian Academy’s lease payment covers most of the utility costs, which run approximately $22,000 annually. The district uses two classrooms in the building for daytime adult education classes.

For this fiscal year, which runs from July 1 to June 30, 2015, $21,666 was approved for maintenance, according to the district budget.

Over the past few years, maintenance has run between $18,000 and $22,800, including funds for water, sewer and electricity.

Heating is the most expensive item on the budget, running between $14,500 and about $16,000 for the past three years. A wood pellet boiler was installed after the oil-fired boiler became unusable, SAD 17 Business Manager Cathy Fanjoy Coffey said. This year, $14,436 is budgeted for pellets, according to the SAD 17 budget.

Coffey said the boiler company placed a containerized wood pellet boiler, which they own, and the district pays the company monthly. In the initial year (2013), the agreed-upon amount was 5 percent less than what the district would have paid for oil. The cost then increases 3 percent per year over the five-year term of the contract, she said.

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