Pace quickens for Memorial School solution

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — As a citizen, Selectman Tracy Kimball was an outspoken advocate for doing something to salvage the Casco Memorial School instead of engaging in “open-ended discussions” about the building while it remained unoccupied with a roof in need of repair.

“I think we have made more progress in two months than in a while. The board is committing to some ‘action steps,’” she said following a recent Casco Board of Selectmen meeting. “I am hoping we can break ground and have something in progress by spring.”

During the meeting, she said she hoped the entire board would be ready to move forward with sending out requests for proposals (RFPs) perhaps as early January 2012.

On Tuesday, Dec. 13, architect Brian Curley of PDT Architects will sit in on a workshop with the selectmen. That presentation is slated to start at 6 p.m., which is a half-hour earlier than usual.

The architect was referred by someone who serves on the SAD 61 Board of Directors, according to Town Manager Dave Morton.

The town has been responsible for the Memorial School building for approximately two years since SAD 61 handed ownership of it back to Casco.

With a past presentation and a future workshop by professionals in the field, the board is armed with more detailed information. At the same time, the public is becoming educated about specific details regarding the condition of the building and varying costs to repair or rebuild it.

On Nov. 1, selectmen and residents were provided with a presentation by Sebago Technics — an explanation of what was found during a recent inspection as well as cost estimates for both renovation and new build options.

According to engineer Owens McCullough, the renovations will cost more than a rebuild based on the fact that there is a larger square footage for the remodel option. The current building is approximately 20 to 30 feet bigger.

McCullough provided a cost estimate range of $626,000 to $1 million for the town to utilize the existing building. By comparison, building new could bring the town a bill of $700,000 to $914,000, he said.

However, building new did score higher because it provides the builder with more opportunities to construct a cost-efficient, environmentally friendly structure, something that adds up to saved dollars over time.

“Fundamentally, we will spend more (per square footage) by building new,” he said. “But because of the smaller square footage required, and longer lifecycle” building new gives more long-term returns

However, contrary to concerns of some residents, the original roof can be reinforced, which keeps open the opportunity to renovate as well as demolishing and building new.

McCullough’s presentation is available by going to the home page of the Town of Casco website at www.cascomaine.org

“I would urge the town to make a decision in the not-too-distant future,” McCullough said during the early November presentation. “The tarps are not a good solution.”

The school’s roof was covered with industrial tarps during the winter of 2010-11.

In an effort to move toward a solution, town employees have been working on different floor plans, Morton said. When completed, the building would serve as the new town offices. Staff would be able to move from cramped quarters into a structure that could also house paperwork currently stored in another town building.

But, there is a catch. No money is budgeted for the project to rebuild or remodel the Memorial School.

Kimball said with the property revaluation expense ($290,000 from the Undesignated Fund Balance) on the horizon, Casco residents may not be so eager to spend more money.

“Getting the roof on the building is really important right now,” she said. “If we are going to salvage the building, we need to get started with action steps — not just talking.”

Kimball cited a portion of McCullough’s presentation, which indicated that the longer the building is uninhabited, the more difficult it will become to save it.

“Now that I am sitting at the table, I want to continue to be the advocate I was as a citizen,” Kimball said. “I feel the community will tell us what they want to do.”

Please follow and like us: