MECHANIC FALLS — A public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Town Office on a plan to move the Town Office, police station and library to a centralized building downtown.

Voters will be asked Nov. 7 to approve the plan.

 An initial hearing, held on Oct. 25, was attended by an overflow crow.

The plan, which has been in the works for several years, would move the Town Office space at 108 Lewiston St. into new headquarters in the former Mechanic Falls Family Practice building at 22 Pleasant St. on the municipal parking lot in front of Future Foods.

The medical practice, a member of Central Maine Healthcare, closed in September. The circa 1928 town office building formerly housed the Norway High School.

Because of the additional tax base boost through the sale of the current Town Office building and expected site of a Hannaford Supermarket in town next spring, the plan is expected to have little or no impact on taxpayers, Town Manager Koriene Low said.

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The sale of the Town Office would create an additional $12,000 in new property tax revenue, she said. Neither the Town Office nor the medical building have generated taxes for years because of their nonprofit status.

The Town Council has met with a potential buyer who has a history of converting old schools and town offices into senior housing, and an intent to purchase has been submitted to the Central Maine Healthcare board for approval of the plan.

As a former employee of Community Concepts, Low said, she was aware of similar situations and had been advised that if a buyer surfaced who would reuse the Town Office space, the town should “grab” that person because reuse of old buildings is rare. Most developers simply tear them down.

“It’s a very unique niche,” she said of developers who seek out old schools and other buildings to reuse.

Low said the purchase of the medical center would be financed through a refinancing of the original $850,000 loan that has about $224,500 of debt remaining.

The new loan, she said, would be for $750,000 and would provide enough money to buy the building and make necessary improvements to it, including electrical, internet, furniture, window replacement and more.

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Proponents of the move say it will provide the town with a centralized and visible location in an area that has a municipal parking lot.

According to information provided by town officials, the new location would be more energy-efficient and would reduce energy costs for the town by more than $10,000 while requiring less maintenance. It would also offer air conditioning that is currently handled by larger, more expensive individual units. Handicapped-accessibility would be improved.

The current Town Office requires significant work to maintain it as a safe location for staff and the public, according to the information. It needs an HVAC system to control air quality and humidity levels and there is minimal insulation. The furnace is more than 15 years old and requires annual replacement of circulator pumps, and the gym is no longer viable because of the floor.

Additionally, the underground tanks must be removed by law in eight years and the entire parking area must be repaved.

If the repairs were made to the current Town Office it would add to the tax base, according to town officials, and cost more than a new building.

Committees have been looking at whether to renovate or build as far back as 1986.

Polls will be open at the Mechanic Falls Town Office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 7.

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Town officials hope voters will support the purchase of this former medical building on Pleasant Street in downtown Mechanic Falls to serve as the new Town Office. (Leslie H. Dixon/Advertiser Democrat)


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