Casco Selectmen review Memorial School options

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer

CASCO – The Casco Board of Selectmen discussed the broader scope of how to get the information together in order to decide if it is best to invest in roof repair on the Memorial School, and then move forward with renovating that building for the town offices, or if the better decision is to demolish it and rebuild a suitable structure.

On Tuesday, the selectmen voted to remove the project from the agenda of a special town meeting in January. It would have required citizen’s approval to allocate money in the budget for the roof repairs. However, a few months ago, the board awarded the roof-repair job to a local contractor without money in the budget to pay the anticipated bill.

Without knowing for certain the winner of renovate versus re-build argument, it seemed pointless to fix the roof.

“My concern is we would put money into the roof and then not be able to remodel. I’m not sure I am going to put thousands of dollars into a roof that might not be used,” Chairman Barbara York said.

For now, the selectmen agreed to hold off on asking residents to support any financial amount until more research is provided by professional firms.

The board gave Town Manager David Morton the go-ahead to hire Sebego Technics to assist the town with putting together bid proposals. The town appropriated $20,000 for studying the Memorial School, and about $5,000 has been spent on some drawing and an environmental study, Morton said. The board approved using money from that account for this purpose.

In a related motion, the board voted, 3-1, to cancel January’s Town Meeting. Selectman Carroll Morton opposed the move, while Selectman Paul Edes abstained.

Traditionally, Casco holds its town meeting in June. But, according to Town Manager Morton, several years ago the selectmen voted to hold a second town meeting in January. The primary reason was that some citizens commented they couldn’t attend the June meeting, and wanted a winter-time meeting. After hearing that the cost for holding a town meeting is between $500 and $600, the board elected to cancel the one in January. One major cost is sending reminders to all the voting residents, Morton said.

Morton said he would contact Hardy Pond Construction, which had been awarded the bid for the roof repair, and let the owner know the board had decided to put the brakes on fixing the roof until it has more accurate cost estimates.

Likely, another bid process will take place, Morton said. The bidders would be required to give cost estimates on a variety of options, such as addressing environmental issues and roof problems and renovating as well as demolition and constructing something with less square footage, he said.

Resident Jim Willey suggested offering a simply worded vote to see if the majority of the people wanted the school remodeled or torn down. “At the end of the day, no matter what the board decides, the townspeople have to approve spending the money,” he said.

Morton said there was a Catch-22: Until all the information was before the board and the residents, it might be difficult to determine which option is better.

Some residents expressed their frustration with how many meetings have been spent discussing the Memorial School’s future.

Morton defended the board “taking its time.”

“I think it’s important for the board to take whatever time it needs to make the decision,” he said. “The decision of what to do with this building and how to approach it – it’s not unusual to take time. We spent 4 ½ years on this building (the Casco Community Center.) The board is trying to be very careful before spending the taxpayers’ money.”

Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted to tarp off the roof for the interim.

Earlier in the meeting, resident Tracy Kimball said she’d heard the roof had not been protected yet. Morton said nothing had been done. Kimball asked if the board– during that night’s meeting – could commit to covering the roof with a tarp.

“We’ve had a couple of local contractors look at roof and say, ‘We don’t know where to begin,’” Morton said. “We can have the big blue tarp covering it, and we might need to nail it down so it doesn’t blow around. The other thought was covering the shingles with an ice and water sealant, but that’s more expensive than the tarp. If we have a cold winter like now or snow, we wouldn’t have any worries because there is no heat in the building to melt the snow on the roof. But, rain would be a problem.”

“No one has been able to say this is where it is leaking,” he said.

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