Town meeting to decide whether to demolish, sell or find new use for Abbie Fowler building

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer
    SANGERVILLE — You’d think with 73 articles in place for the March 23 town meeting that Sangerville residents would be voting on the same issue more than once: and you’d be right. The selectmen approved multiple options concerning what the town should do regarding the disposition of the Abbie Fowler building, to see if the town will sell the municipal woodlots, and whether to enact two moratoriums against private commercial enterprises.

    The selectmen finalized the proposed 73-article warrant on Feb. 22 which asks residents to decide on the aforementioned matters as well as a $993,000 municipal budget and elect new municipal officers. The selectmen also discussed local businessman Jeff Pearl’s offer to purchase the beleaguered Abbie Fowler building for $1.
    Pearl plans on moving his Abbot-based Mid-Maine Chimney Sweep business into the former school building. He needs to expand his operation to meet a new contract with the True Value Hardware Store chain for his creosote-reducing product.
    The building still contains asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls contamination within the building. The town decided in 2008 to demolish it. Town officials have considered other potentially less costly options. An initial estimate had demolition costs pegged at over $400,000. A more recent estimate to demolish the building and remove the hazardous materials was gauged at $280,841.
    The town warrant has three articles about options for disposing of the former school building. Residents have the option of conveying the property to Pearl, they can keep the building intact and remove the contamination at a $201,905 cost, or remove only the asbestos and prepare the building for industrial use at a $45,793 cost.
    Pearl indicated he was willing to take responsibility for the building and property. As a Sangerville resident who once attended the Abbie Fowler school, Pearl believes moving his business to the site would be a major benefit to both himself and the community.
    “I need the additional space to expand. As a Sangerville resident this is my first choice,” Pearl said. “As time goes on I expect to expand further with the possibility adding a second small building on the site. I’ve seen the environmental reports and think the building can be used while the contamination is cleaned out a little bit at a time.”
    The selectmen have sought a legal opinion concerning their liability for selling the contaminated building. The board will inform the voters about the municipality’s legal liability during the town meeting.
    Residents voted in 2008 to demolish the building. The voters placed a five-year deadline for completing the project. If residents vote against selling the building to Pearl, they will once again vote on whether to demolish it to the slab. They will also be asked to authorize municipal officials, in a separate article, to develop a plan for the building’s slab to be reused as a site for public purposes such as a pavilion, gazebo, or another unheated exhibition-type building.
    The voters will also be voting twice on whether the municipality should retain ownership of the Harold W. Leland Memorial Forest. One article includes the term “permanently” which the town’s legal adviser indicated could prove problematical at future town meetings. The selectmen will recommend to defeat this article so the voters can move on to a similar article with no reference to “permanently retain” the town’s woodlots.
    The voters will also consider an article which would place a moratorium regarding private corridors with highways, pipelines, and high-tension transmission lines. The article has nearly identical wording to one passed by Monson voters last year.
    A second moratorium request would prohibit commercial windmills from being constructed within the town. If passed, the moratoriums would give the town’s planning board 180 days to develop a land use ordinance to deal with these commercial projects.
    Residents will also be electing a selectman and a SAD 4 director to a three-year term, town treasurer, fire warden, and emergency management agency director to a one-year term, sanitary district member to a six-year term.
    Sangerville will hold their annual town meeting at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 23 at the fire station. The selectmen will hold their next board meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 21 in the community room.

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