RSU 9 Superintendent Christian Elkington, left, gives a slideshow presentation about the purchase of Holman Mission House for district purposes on Tuesday, Oct. 24. A vote on Tuesday, Nov. 7, will determine if RSU 9 will be able to purchase or lease the property. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — A public hearing was held on Tuesday, Oct. 24, in regards to the lease-purchase agreement of Holman Mission House by Regional School Unit 9, which intends to use the space for administrative purposes. Superintendent Christian Elkington yielded comments and questions regarding the acquisition of the building, historical significance, and potential long-term cost.

The RSU 9 board of directors voted to move forward the lease-purchase agreement on Tuesday, Sept. 26, and set the public hearing date at that meeting. A referendum vote will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7, where the ten towns that send kids to RSU 9 will decide if the agreement with the owners of Holman Mission House, located at 227 Main Street in Farmington, will be a purchase agreement or a lease agreement.

Those towns are Chesterville, Farmington, Industry, New Sharon, New Vineyard, Starks, Temple, Vienna, Weld and Wilton. RSU 9 plans to utilize $550,000 of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief [ESSER] funds to purchase or lease the property, depending on the vote.

At the public hearing, Elkington highlighted a number of reasons behind the need for a dedicated space for district matters. Currently, RSU 9 district offices are located at the Mt. Blue High School campus, which Elkington says removes space that is specified for student needs. He also cited other reasons such as inadequate meeting space and the need for better confidentiality when discussing sensitive matters with students and parents.

“Right now,” Elkington stated, “the district offices are in a very busy hallway with students and the Special Education Leadership offices are in the same kind of place.”

“It is difficult to maintain confidentiality,” he added. “We can’t really handle very many IEP meetings here at Mt. Blue campus.”


According to Elkington, the search for a dedicated space has been an ongoing issue since district offices moved onto Mt. Blue campus nine years ago. Their move to Mt. Blue campus was originally planned to be temporary and only meant for five years, he stated at the meeting. The search for a location formally began two years ago, shortly after Elkington arrived at the district as the superintendent.

Initially, RSU 9 looked into the Holman Mission House as a possibility, but looked elsewhere due to the cost of repairs exceeding what they had in ESSER funds. Over the last 18 months, Elkington stated that RSU 9 had looked into renting or purchasing other properties, but found costs were beyond what the budget would allow.

Renting was also a difficult prospect to consider due to the nature of the funding, as ESSER funds will stop in September of 2024, with all remaining unused funds returning to the federal government. This means if a space were to be rented and renovated using ESSER funds, RSU 9 would have to look into adding the rental cost of the location into the annual budget in the long term, Elkington stated.

RSU 9 revisited the Holman Mission House after a portion of ESSER funds that were dedicated to other projects became available. Elkington stated certain projects “proved too costly” or they would not be completed by September 2024 as the reason for the funds becoming available. He estimates approximately $550,000 will be used in the purchase and upgrading of the property.

$400,000 will be used to purchase the property, with the remaining $150,000 to be used in upgrades and repairs. At the meeting, a home inspection report was handed out to members of the audience, which lists roof repair, asbestos removal and electrical upgrades as the most significant needs for the building. Elkington also stated that contracts to do the repairs and upgrades are set.

Two industrial heat pumps and two new boilers would be added to the property for heating needs, Elkington stated. He estimates roughly $20,000 for the cost of utilities, heating and plowing, specifying to an audience member that RSU 9 anticipates roughly $6,000 to be spent annually in heating costs between the heat pumps and the boilers.


Edmund Chernesky of Farmington questioned Elkington on the cost of heating the property and the overall condition of the building.

“What I’m concerned about is this building,” Chernesky stated. “It’s a great building. I love it, but I also love 1972 Thunderbirds, and I know that a 50 year old car, even at 27,000 miles, is still a 50 year old car. This is an old building.”

“I just think that the $20,000 cost every year to the district will be woefully short,” Chernesky added.

Elkington stated $20,000 is the estimated cost for the first year and he did not doubt the possibility of heating costs going up. He also added that significant work to parts of the property that has seen deterioration due to age will be addressed with the $150,000 budgeted for repairs.

RSU 9 intends to maintain the building as is to keep its historical significance, Elkington said, as well as utilizing the space as a means to become more active and engaging with the community by participating in events and providing easier access to community members.

Elkington concluded his presentation with the cost benefit of purchasing the Holman Mission House compared to the cost of the Bjorn Center for Career and Technical Education at Mt. Blue Middle School. He explained that with the Bjorn Center, $2.8 million is being spent to add approximately 4,000 square feet to MBMS.

By contrast, in purchasing the Holman Mission House for $550,000, RSU 9 would be freeing up 3,000 square feet at MBHS.

“For about a fifth of the cost from federal funds, we can return about 3,000 square feet to student use,” he stated. “To me, that seems like the cost benefit analysis on that is positive.”

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