PARIS — Selectmen voted unanimously this month to put the Mildred M. Fox School up for sale in hopes to get the historic building back on the tax rolls.

The 1882 three-story brick building at 10 East Main St. is home to Oxford Hills Christian Academy, which rents it. Since talk of the town reacquiring the building from School Administrative District 17 last year, academy officials began searching for a new home for the 50 students in grades kindergarten to 12.

“We’re still working on it,” academy Administrator Steve Holbrook said last week.

He said there’s a 60-day clause in the lease that allows either party to break the agreement.

Town Manager Amy Bernard said at last week’s meeting the town has been in discussions with John Orestis, owner of North Country Associates, which owns Market Square Health Center next door. He wants his architectural and engineering firm to inspect the building for potential renovations.

“As for the school, I don’t want to raise expectations of the community that we’re going to do something,” Orestis said. “I don’t know if we are. The goal would be to not expand the nursing home — it would be a complimentary use for seniors.”

Bernard said that before selectmen could sell or transfer ownership of the building, they have to obtain permission from voters at a special town meeting.

The town took ownership of the former elementary school in October 2014 because it originally owned it in the 1960s before the school district was formed.

In June, Paris voters approved spending $80,869 on the two lots associated with the school — one with a bus loop and a roughly one-acre parking lot.

“I don’t want to sit on this forever,” Selectman Janet Jamison said at the Nov. 9 board meeting. “That’s not what we promised the voters at town meeting this year. I love the Fox School — I think it’s a great old building. I think taxwise, we can’t afford to retrofit it. . . . I’d like to see it back on the tax rolls.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Wessels said there are some who want to use it for a community-oriented purpose, such as a senior citizens or arts center.

“I personally don’t want to be a landlord any more than we need to as a town,” he said. “I don’t think that’s in our best interest.”

He said $10,000 has been budgeted to maintain it.

“Quite honestly, I don’t want to see it go up any more than that,” he said.

Regarding the potential sale of the school, Bernard said it was assessed for $600,000, but that wasn’t the real market value.

“My understanding is the Realtor said realistically you would be lucky to get $130,000, $140,000 for the property,” she said. “The real money that you would find from this is whatever the investor would have to put into the building . . . that would increase its value. . . . That’s where you would see your return on the tax investment.”

Selectman Mike Risica asked if selling the school included the two other parcels the town recently purchased.

Bernard said they are three separate parcels.

There was some confusion about the purpose of the lots. Bernard thought the town purchased them to at least keep the one-acre parcel for public parking because the plan to reconfigure Market Square includes a roundabout, which would wipe out most of the parking in that area.

The board passed three separate motions to put the school and the two parcels up for sale.

The special town meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, before the selectmen meeting.

In other Fox School matters, selectmen unanimously rejected an offer from Clean Feet Investors LLC to sell the town the pellet boiler at the school for $7,500.

Bernard said the school district purchased the energy for the boiler but didn’t own the unit. The investment firm Clean Feet took over Pelletco, from which SAD 17 had purchased its pellets, and the firm told Bernard it’s not interested in maintaining the boiler. She reached out to two contractors to see if they could service the unit, but no information about the make and model could be found. 

“We know this pellet boiler has had a history with performance issues over the past two winters,” Bernard said. “We need to be able to call someone if it goes.”

“(Pelletco) never put in a backup system — that was the first breach in the agreement,” she said. “Well, we have school-age children in the school and we need to provide them heat of some kind.”

After conferring with the town’s attorney, Bernard said it was decided the town will no longer pay Pelletco $1,200 a month for the fuel because of the breach in contract. Officials are contacting the investment firm’s lawyer.

“You need to understand this boiler has never worked properly since it’s been installed at the Fox School,” she told selectmen. “I would not suggest you pay $7,500 for this boiler.”

“I would refuse it in a heartbeat,” Jamison said. “All I want is pellets. I want to keep the kids warm, someone who can service it and we can fight about the legal stuff later.”

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