OLD TOWN – An environmental cleanup of the old Jefferson Street School would be needed before redevelopment of the old Jefferson Street School could continue.

In April 2015 city councilors an option agreement for redevelopment of the old Jefferson Street School involving local investors. Up until 2014, the property housed the Southern Penobscot Regional Program, but that program for children withbehavioral and developmental disabilities was moved to Bangor. A few months later, RSU 34, which owned the property, deeded it over to the city. Pipes were drained and it was closed down for the winter; initially, it was feared that the city could end up with an unwanted albatross, perhaps for years, as the property needed extensive work to be used for other purposes.

Initially, that fear seemed like it might be realized – there was little interest in an initial round when the property was offered up for request for proposals. A second time, however, yielded three proposals, including the one by the local investors.

That proposal called for the property to be redeveloped with up to 17 “high-end” units – something that Plourde told councilors is in short supply in Old Town. The option for purchase, which is in place for nine months, adds that none of the units could be converted to subsidized housing for at least 40 years, assuring the building stays on the tax rolls – a place where it has never been.

Work on getting the property redeveloped, however has been slow. An environmental assessment was done, and some cleanup; an estimated $100,000 is still needed to finish cleaning up the site before redevelopment can move forward. That is a cost that will be borne by the city.

City Manager Bill Mayo said the city has a couple options – it could do the cleanup now, with funds coming from reserve accounts, or it could hope for Brownfireld grant money a year and a half to two years down the road. Waiting, however, could mean the developers lose interest in the site, potentially leaving the city stuck with the property again.

Councilors, in discussing the issue last week, took no course of action. They asked that Mayo talk with the developers to fully ensure they still plan to do the redevelopment if the city cleans up the properrty now.

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