Discussing the future use of the Rumford Elementary School on June 26 were, from left, Rumford Town Manager George O’Keefe, Board Chair Chris Brennick, Darby Beliveau of Friends of the River Valley, and Select Board member John Pepin. Bruce Farrin/Rumford Falls Times

RUMFORD — A plan by the Select Board for a two-phase project when Rumford Elementary School property becomes the town’s became a bit clearer during the second workshop on June 26.

The town is planning to repurpose the building, built in 1956, “to provide childcare for the community and also to create the nucleus of a community that will fundamentally and transparently say this is the first step towards addressing the need of the community for a new community center in the future.”

At the first workshop, new Town Manager George O’Keefe said the town is working on a preliminary design to prepare an application to the Northern Borders Regional Commission for the conversion of the existing building for childcare and community use. That’s Phase I of the project.

“The conversion would occur in late 2025 or early 2026 as soon as RSU 10 vacates the premises. That would not involve any new construction,” he said.The space would be for the separated early childhood education program from a program for school age children, with an all controlled access system on the YMCA portion. There would also be an afterschool program.

O’Keefe said a tour of RES by Steve Wallace, CEO of the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA, has been completed. He said Wallace was very impressed by “how clean it was, the quality of it all, it’s in excellent condition. It’s got a lot of old systems, but it’s a very well-maintained facility. This is a very complete building, in many ways.”

The building also has an elevator.


The town is working on a preliminary design to prepare an application to the Northern Borders Regional Commission for the conversion of the existing building for childcare and community use.

Architect Pat Boothe of Woodhull Architects & Builders of Portland said they took commentary from Wallace “about how to repurpose the rooms for the different ages he’s looking to and locate them in a way that works best for the sequencing of the students…through our studies, we found that the existing building works out well as it is, for the most part. We are proposing that the entry be on the north side of the building.”

He said there’s not too many new walls that are needed. “We do propose bathrooms where it makes the most sense. We’ve been able to keep all this new plumbing work contained in that left portion of the building where there is an existing basement and crawl space to make it much easier to install.”

Boothe said they will be repurposing the existing gym and cafeteria to be potentially be an afterschool program, as well as an area that could have indoor playgrounds, especially during the daycare program.

“The electrical system has been in place since 1959, it’s a question of how much of that they can work with.”

O’Keefe said the intent is to apply for $3 million grant in October to Northern Borders Regional. “It hasn’t been awarded yet, but we do believe that we will be able to size and scope this to get a max award. That’s based on $1.9 million value of the school itself as appraised, constituting the local match, so we won’t have to put up cash as a match.”


He asked if a $3 million budget for the conversion on the building in attainable.

Boothe responded they will need to go through a process of studying how much everything costs and see where they land. “Right now, it seems attainable. We’ll go through some more time of studying this, and then objective would be to see if more adjustments are needed to get it to a point where it makes sense with the budget in mind.”

He said this building is “just really well set up to be this use…The building, however, isn’t sprinkled. The modern code for daycare use would require a sprinkler for a building like this. That will be incorporated in the plan, no matter what. But once you have that in place, everything else is kind of what you need via code or function. The mechanical systems and boiler is 20 years old but has lifespan left on it.”

O’Keefe said the Greater Rumford Senior Citizens has a desire to come into the building. “The Y, in the first workshop, indicated they would to take at least half the building — the bottom floor. After Steve’s walkthrough, he seemed to feel there was the potential for taking more, in terms of a lease from us.”

O’Keefe said the YMCA, as an organization, has “an enormous commitment to seniors. The thinking is that they would sublease to the Rumford Senior Center, maybe the hospital.”

Boothe said Phase I could take as little as six months to complete.


Board chair Chris Brennick said, “Phase II for us is adding in more recreational elements, an addition onto the building, featuring basketball courts and a pool.”

Board members John Pepin and Frank DiConzo both expressed that the board should be thinking about Phase II right now.
DiConzo said he believes it will be around $18 million for the project.

Pepin said it will be a hefty price tag. “We’re going to have to contact some people to be able to afford something that we think we need — pool, indoor track, all those things.”

This definitely takes care of a high-priority need in the Rumford area, childcare.

Mindy Gorham, representing the Greater Rumford Community Center Board of Directors, said they met with the YMCA. “They shared some great ideas…and made it very clear that joining with the GRCC and being a force together.

They did not support the idea of a large pool.”


O’Keefe continued, “They made it clear to us that if we’re looking to build a really large 25-yard, six-lane lap competition pool, they don’t think it’s doable. They have also indicated that a smaller shallow therapy pool that could be used for classes, for swimming lessons and for water aerobic classes and for community use, like a 40×60…something smaller is OK.”

Gorham said asked if they go through these steps, “Does the YMCA bring in the employment part of it? Does that mean they bring in all the people to run the facility because they talked about mixing our boards at that point.”

O’Keefe responded, “I can only even try to answer this perspectively because there’s town votes and other things that will have to happen. Many, many steps. However, we do not want to be employer. We want the Y to be the employer. And, in terms of bringing people in, the good news is we have people in this community who can be trained to be lifeguards, who can be trained to do a lot of the stuff. That’s where it becomes a youth employment opportunity, without a doubt.”

Also present was Darby Beliveau of the Friends of the River Valley, a centralized resource for funding, support, and partnership with existing programs and organizations to provide these needs and promote economic development opportunities.

He said his group recently met with Sen. Angus King, talking about their group, the River Valley and projects.

“The earlier you get people involved, the better off you are. We’ve got numbers and contacts. We would like to be able to assist you people — the community center, the town, the architect — in whatever way we can,” noted Beliveau.


When pressed about how much the town would ask for federal funding for this project, O’Keefe said, “The federal ask is going to be about $10 million in two or three years, and Sen. Collins’ office knows that as well…The private capital comes on top of that.”

He said, “I’m giving that number purposely. $10 million is a good number for them to know. We have many of the things that we would already need — offices and some of the admin spaces are already included in this existing building. That will be for the gym, pool, gymnastics, all of it. We already have 40,000 square feet right here.”

O’Keefe said remaining funds would come from private donations and a small town bond.

Steve Wallace will be asked to attend the next workshop meeting as the Select Board want clarification is the set up at the RES works for the YMCA and if any additions are needed.

That workshop will be held 5:30 p.m. Aug. 7 in the Town Hall.

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