Memorial School motion stirs emotions

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Casco Memorial School was on the agenda again.  It was listed as old business. The discussion was to focus on how to dispose of the building.

On Tuesday, a motion regarding the memorial school’s future drew out emotions and lots of comments during the Casco Board of Selectmen’s meeting. Throughout the discussion, there were a few instances when people interrupted one another or briefly spoke at the same time.

The topic also prompted people to refer to remodel versus rebuild cost ranges provided by various engineering firms in the past year.

Chairman Barbara York was the first to speak about the issue. She said the Memorial School was indeed old business; and it was about time for the board to take decisive action.

In addition, a recent poll had revealed that a little less than half of those people responding were not in favor of not spending more money on the structure. The poll question had asked property owners if they were willing to spend approximately $750,000 on the Memorial School. ‘No’ was the answer for 379 respondents, while 188 residents backed making that expenditure to save the building.

“We have been discussing this for a very long time,” the chairman continued.

“It has greatly deteriorated over the years” as well as being an annual financial burden to the town at the tune of between $4,000 and $5,000 — just to maintain and tarp over for the past two winters, York said.

“At this point, I am making a motion” to turn the school over to the Casco Fire Department for rescue and fire training classes. York’s motion also included the future for the Memorial plaque.

The Memorial School was constructed to honor veterans, three community members who served and died in World War II. So, to carry on the spirit of the school, the memorial plaque would be presented to the Veteran’s Committee or the Casco Recreation Department so it could be properly displayed in the community.

In a turn of events, and after York had called a vote on the motion, the vote vanished when the board agreed to wait on an action until the town had sought legal counsel.

As soon as York called for a vote, Town Manager Dave Morton brought up a possible conflict that the board might want double-checked before making that decision about the Memorial School.

“In order to dispose of an asset, we need a town vote at town meeting. But, the selectmen have the responsibility for addressing and caring for buildings, including disposal of,” Morton said, adding, “So, there is a conflict.”

He told the board it could vote on the fate of the school that night, and then — if needed — the Memorial School issue would become an article at Town Meeting. But, the selectmen’s next move was to wait, and be legally prudent, before taking the next step two weeks from now.

Once the motion was on the floor, this is some of the conversation that took place:

Selectman Tracy Kimball said, “I don’t think we can hold onto it much longer. We are putting a lot of money into a building that has no benefit to the town.”

Selectman Grant immediately said it was a contradiction for the majority of the board to support spending extra money on an independent firm to oversee the firm doing the property revaluation job, while members of the board were saying $4,000 to $5,000 was too much money to spend on maintaining the school until the public was ready to do something with it.

“We have had engineers who said it could be saved. We have had engineers telling us it could be repaired,” Grant said.

Selectman Edes agreed the school could still be salvaged.

“I don’t understand why anyone would want to destroy a building so structurally straight as that building is,” he said.

To watch the meeting on video, go to www.lakeregiontv.org/Program/LiveStre.

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