Depot Street to get a makeover, but Memorial School up in air

STILL STANDING — A section of mural by Nelle Ely shows the buildings of Depot Street of long ago, including the GAR Hall, left, now used by the Bridgton Arts & Crafts Guild. This summer the town will be installing long-awaited sidewalks and curbing on Depot Street, in a first step toward the street’s revitalization.

STILL STANDING — A section of mural by Nelle Ely shows the buildings of Depot Street of long ago, including the GAR Hall, left, now used by the Bridgton Arts & Crafts Guild. This summer the town will be installing long-awaited sidewalks and curbing on Depot Street, in a first step toward the street’s revitalization.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Depot Street will finally be getting proper sidewalks, curbing and streetlights this summer.

Anne Krieg, Director of Planning, Economic and Community Development, was granted permission by Selectmen Tuesday to allocate an unexpected extra $30,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding to Depot Street improvements. The windfall boosts the total budget to nearly $100,000, with $67,677 coming from this year’s CDBG allocation and $30,000 in reprogrammed funds.

The money will pay for new paving, granite curbing, a concrete sidewalk, grading, drainage, streetlights and even benches, if the budget permits.

Selectmen also told Krieg that if the budget runs over, she might be able to use a portion of the $80,000 that’s been set aside from a previous year for the Main Street sewer line. They agreed with her that it would be important to have the project completed during this calendar year.

Krieg said she had planned on only receiving $160,000–$174,000 from the county’s annual allocation of CDBG money to Bridgton. But two weeks ago she learned the final number was a little over $191,000. Of that amount, a total of $137,677 has been earmarked for construction. In addition to the Depot Street project, $20,000 was awarded to the Bridgton Community Center for new windows; $30,000 will pay for historic façade restoration work at the Rufus Porter Museum’s Gallinari House; and another $20,000 will be spent renovating the historic Moses House on Main Hill.

Of the balance of this year’s CDBG allocation, $38,355 will pay Krieg’s salary and $15,500 will be spread in amounts from $2,000 to $5,000 among the following public services: food pantry, emergency fuel assistance, community dinners, cancer patient support and Community HELP.

“HUD seems to have done well,” Krieg told Selectmen Tuesday, noting the increase in funding to Bridgton. She said Depot Street can really use the extra money because it will enable the town to do all the stormwater improvements that are needed before any paving is done.

Memorial School status

The Memorial School is at the end of upper Depot Street, and Selectmen expressed frustration Tuesday that the SAD 61 School District, which currently owns the vacant building, has yet to decide what its future plans are for the building. The district is currently using part of the vacant school for storage of sprinkler system equipment and other items.

At one point, a few years back, the prospect seemed good that the town, with voter approval, might eventually take over ownership and redevelop the property. With that end in mind, the town conducted the first phase of a Brownfields Study, which found asbestos but no other evidence of site contamination from the property’s earlier use as a rail yard for the Narrow Gauge rail system that once ran through town.

Krieg said the town now needs to apply for a Phase II Brownfields grant to remove the asbestos. She said the Greater Portland Council of Governments has pledged $10,000 in staff time to help the town draft a redevelopment plan.

The problem, Kreig said, is that she cannot apply for a Phase II Brownfields grant as long as the building is being used for cold storage, and there is no plan for its future use. Selectman Bernie King, who represents the board on the district’s School Facilities Committee, said the district does not have a plan in place as of yet.

“If the school says they’re going to use it for cold storage, I’m not going to pursue this grant,” said Krieg, noting that the money will be available this fall. “We do need to spend these next two months making these decisions.”

Resident Glen “Bear” Zaidman said the school district needs to make a decision whether it wants to hold onto the property or not. “That’s a valuable piece of property, and to hold it up for cold storage of a bunch of sprinklers is holding this town up from moving forward in the downtown,” he said.

Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said the town needs to “impress upon (the school district) the need to make a decision,” and suggested that the board table any action until August. Selectmen unanimously agreed.

 

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