PARIS — The town intends to ask the Paris Utility District to sell a piece of property along the Little Androscoggin River, which residents have eyed as a potential site for a park, despite warnings that a sale simply isn’t feasible. 

Following a closed-door meeting late Monday night, selectmen gave Town Manager Amy Bernard permission to negotiate with the district’s board of directors to give residents more access on the 7-acre site at 1 Paris Hill Road. It includes a former office building, pump station, and boarded-over drinking-water wells. 

On Tuesday, selectmen clarified that those discussions will likely include a proposal to purchase the lot outright. 

Selectman Robert Wessels stressed that no formal offer has been made to the district, but said the town preferred to purchase, rather than lease the land.

One side of the property is bordered by shallow ponds dotted with lily pads and inhabited by a variety of wildlife. Residents with kayaks, canoes and swimmers access the river by a parking lot as a matter of practice, a relationship the town would like to formalize.

The district has not used the one-story building since it moved its headquarters to new offices on CN Brown Way off Main Street several years ago, though it still maintains a major wastewater pump station and sewer main servicing half the town, according to Paris Utility District Manager Steve Arnold.

The site used to be the main station for the district, which expanded in 1975 to a new facility to meet increased sewage demand from industrial businesses

A half-dozen smaller brick and wood sheds cover former drinking-water wells, which were covered up years ago when the town moved to a municipal water source.

As a municipal entity, the utility district is exempt from paying taxes on the land and buildings. Tax records indicate the land is worth $84,000 and the buildings $57,000. The PUD owns several other parcels in Paris, including pump stations, water reservoirs and the wastewater treatment facility.

The town has been looking into obtaining green, public spaces for some time, and recent talks over the downtown’s future have raised public sentiment for a public-access launch and park.

The area first came under consideration as a possible public water access point earlier this year, when town officials approached Arnold about using the site.

“This is a good example of something that has potential,” Selectmen Chairman Ryan Lorrain said.

Selectwoman Janet Jamison, a member of the Norway-Paris Community Television Board of Directors, said the offices were considered as a possible new home for the community television station, but thought too small.

“The place is getting more and more run down. Our plan is to sit down with their board about taking over the property,” Jamison said.

However that information came as a surprise to Arnold, who said that discussion over expanded use and possible lease of the site, similar to deals struck to place baseball fields on Oxford Street, had taken place, but not a sale.

“They can obtain use of it, but never own it. We have no problem with coming to an agreement with the town so they can make a park,” Arnold said.

According to Arnold, a number of factors made a transfer of ownership simply not feasible. They include an active pump station readily accessed by maintenance workers, sewer mains extending beneath the offices and through the site, as well as miscellaneous, unused fire hydrants and other equipment being stored there, he said.

“It would be like me selling you a home but keeping the furnace and going in there, in the dead of winter, and working on it,” he said.

Bernard did not confirm or deny a sale was an option being pursued, saying she felt uncomfortable discussing the specifics of future negotiations.

“I don’t know how that is going to happen until I talk to them next week,” she said.

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