This week the Buzz is all about change.

Becket Family of Services, a New Hampshire-headquartered nonprofit serving children with behavioral needs, is turning the former Auburn Baptist Church into a new special-purpose private school.

The company bought the building and 16-acre property at 227 Poland Road in January and took out a city permit last month for a $255,000 renovation.

Becket has a residential facility and private school for boys in Belgrade, a residential facility for boys in Litchfield and two residential facilities in Auburn and Lewiston for girls, according to chief legal counsel David Chabot.

It also has a special-purpose private school on Holbrook Road in Auburn that opened in 2014 and serves about 45 students.

“In four years, we outgrew the space,” Chabot said.

Becket Family of Services was founded in 1964 and has between 60 and 70 facilities in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, he said. The Poland Road school will be its largest.

The company has about 160 employees in Maine. Becket serves about 40 children in residential treatment in the state, ages 13 to 19, “most suffering from various forms of trauma requiring residential treatment,” Chabot said. “They are usually referred to us by the judicial system.”

The former church and a nearby second building with a gym on Poland Road offers five times the room of the Holbrook Road school, he said. Becket is retrofitting it for classrooms, meeting space, assembly space and performance space, “trying to give the students the full traditional school experience.”

Construction is expected to wrap up this fall when the Androscoggin Learning and Transition Center will move from Holbrook Road to Poland Road.

Chabot expects the new student growth there to be slow.

“When will we remove the stained glass? Maybe we won’t, maybe that’ll be an homage to the building’s history,” Chabot said. “The steeple, hmm, probably needs to go.”

Meanwhile, the Auburn Baptist Church is getting new space ready for itself. The church bought the former Rolandeau’s restaurant on Washington Street in May.   

Change of a different sort

Michael Bourque, president and CEO of The MEMIC Group, delivered a workers’ compensation historical primer at the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce breakfast Thursday that offered a tease of good news for the future.

The company, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and traces its roots to the major workers’ comp reforms of the early 1990s, has returned $241 million in dividends to its thousands of customers since 1998.

Last fall, $21 million was returned based on premiums paid in 2014, a calculation that’s made “after we look to see how well we’ve done in any given year,” Bourque said.

“Just last night, I took a look at numbers from our CFO that we’ll present to our board in September and I’m fairly confident we’ll add significantly to that number once again this year,” he said Thursday morning at the Ramada Inn. 

And speaking of money …

Who doesn’t love a fun fact?

Buckle up for about seven of ’em.

Career website Zippia last month named Bates College No. 1 in Maine in a ranking of small colleges with the highest-earning graduates by state. (The website says it relied on nationwide data looking at the highest average earners 10 years after entering college and didn’t include community colleges.)

That average for a Bates grad, $75,700, put Maine at No. 8 in the country. Maryland, with the University of Maryland Baltimore at $102,900, ranked No. 1.

This week Experian found Maine was among the 10 states whose credit card debt is growing the least. It’s still up 4.92 percent this winter over last winter, but Maine’s no Florida (up 9.23 percent.)

Research website ranked Maine the fourth-best state for small businesses this month owing, according to a news release, to rankings like the small-business survival rate (68 percent of small businesses stay open for more than two years) and a “small-business birth rate” of 120 percent (20 percent more small businesses opening than shutting down.)

Quick hits about business comings, goings and happenings. Have a Buzzable tip? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]

Becket Family of Services, headquartered in New Hampshire, bought the former Auburn Baptist Church on Poland Road in Auburn and is converting it into a school for children with behavioral needs. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

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