Sangerville decides against selling Abbie Fowler building to local businessman

By Bill Pearson
Staff Writer

    SANGERVILLE — Residents voted overwhelmingly to reject a local businessman’s offer to purchase the ill-fated Abbie Fowler building for a $1 during the March 30 annual town meeting. Residents had three articles on the town warrant concerning the vacant former schoolhouse which is contaminated with asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls.

ne-sangervilleselectman-dc-color-po-14Observer photo/Bill Pearson 

    CASTING A BALLOT — Bill Rowe casts a ballot during Sangerville’s municipal election on March 30 during the annual town meeting. Rowe was elected to the board of selectmen. Residents approved the $993,000 municipal budget and decided to reject three proposals considering alternate uses for the Abbie Fowler building. Residents reaffirmed their 2008 decision to demolish the building.

    Residents had voted in 2008 to demolish the building, but the town has been stymied in their efforts over concerns about the demolition’s potential cost. Last year, residents authorized the selectmen to consider other alternatives for disposing of the school building. But when it came time to vote on authorizing the acceptance of an offer made by Mid-Maine Chimney Sweep’s owner Jeff Pearl, residents only had one question about the proposal.
    “We voted to demolish it five years ago, so why are voting on it again,” was the refrain several residents made prior to the vote.”
    The residents voted during a later article to confirm their 2008 decision to have the Abbie Fowler demolished. Residents also passed over two other proposals for re-using the former school. One proposal would have authorized the selectmen to develop a re-use plan for public purposes. The other proposal would have transferred the title to Sangerville Historical Society.
    In other business, residents voters approved two articles about retaining ownership of the town’s five woodlots. Former selectmen Irving McNaughton and Brent Randall indicated last year they favored selling a woodlot the town had obtained as tax acquired property.

ne-sangervilepearl-dc-po-14Observer photo/Bill Pearson

    FOWLER DECISION — Mid-Maine Chimney Sweep owner Jeff Pearl makes a plea during the March 30 town meeting for residents to approve a proposal to sell the Abbie Fowler building to him for $1. Residents decided against selling the building in favor of demolishing the asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls contaminated building. Pearl wanted to use the building as a warehouse for his creosote-reducing product.

    The former selectmen’s declaration about their preference to sell the woodlot led to a public debate about whether the town’s woodlots should be sold or retained. Voters also approved another article pertaining to the management of the town owned woodlots. Residents authorized the designation of the Sangerville Community Forestry Committee as a standing committee.
    The SCFC was formed by the selectmen in 2002, but it was temporarily disbanded last year. The committee and selectmen had differing opinions about the woodlots’ future. The committee favored retaining all of the town’s woodlots. The committee also wanted to use a majority of the forests’ proceeds to maintain the lots.
    When residents considered the municipal budget, they approved all the articles. Voters approved the proposed $993,000 spending plan. The one article which received the most scrutiny pertained to approving a $10,000 overdraft account. Residents approved the proposal during last year’s town meeting, but this year the fund received a significant opposition.
    Opponents believed the selectmen were already authorized to fund overdrafts in the winter roads and general assistance accounts. They also reasoned that in past years all previous overdrafts had received voter approval at special town meetings. And they favored returning to that policy, but ultimately a majority of residents sided with the board’s sentiment.
    “If we call a special town meeting to approve funding for an overdraft and it’s not approved then the selectmen are personally liable for that obligation,” said Selectwoman Melissa Randall. “I for one don’t want to be put in that position.”
    In the municipal elections, Bill Rowe ran unopposed for a three-year term on the board of selectmen. He replaces McNaughton who decided against seeking re-election. Residents also elected two SAD 4 directors. They re-elected Joe Chadbourne to a three-year term. Pam Smith was also elected to serve a three-year term on the school board.
    Voters also elected the town’s fire chief to serve as the Emergency Management Director. Fire Chief Chuck Beane was elected to the post with 28 votes. Voters had the option of electing the town manager to the position or Peter Drummond. As town manager, Pearson received 12 votes and Drummond tallied 5. Robert Haley was re-elected without any opposition to the Sanitary District for a six-year term.

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