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Town faces high cost of saving building

Historically significant schoolhouse needs $700,000 in work
By Susan Mustapich | Jan 20, 2020
Courtesy of: Town of Lincolnville The condition and repair of the town-owned Lincolnville Improvement Association building, a former 1800s schoolhouse, is the focus of discussions.

LINCOLNVILLE — Experts say the historic schoolhouse that serves the Lincolnville Improvement Association needs expensive repairs, and lacks adequate structural support for its upper floor.

Selectmen held a workshop Jan. 15 for stakeholders after an assessment of the 128-year-old former schoolhouse came back with a price tag of $624,000. However, the town administrator said it could cost as much as $700,000, all told.

The most significant structural issue, according to experts, is insufficient support for the building's second floor. Fixing this requires new support beams. Engineers recommend no more than a handful of people use the second floor at any given time, that nothing else be added upstairs, and anything of great weight be removed.

In response to questioning, Amanda Austin of 2A architects of Rockport said the building is not unsafe as currently used.

Lincolnville Improvement Association members, including President Bob Plausse, spoke about the building as a public place where there are gatherings to celebrate all kinds of occasions, including the big Christmas party with Santa. It is a meeting place for organizations including the Women's Club, Garden Club, the Lincolnville Sewer District, and the historical society.

Selectmen agreed saving the building will require community support and fundraising.

Town Administrator David Kinney said options include borrowing by the town, using funds from town savings, a privately run capital campaign, or a combination of all three.

Until 2017, the Lincolnville Improvement Association took care of building maintenance. In 2017, when the town entered into a new lease for the association's use of the building, it took on responsibility for improvement to the building's exterior siding, according to Kinney. The town hired experts to assess the building.

Austin of 2A architects said the building's condition is normal for its age. Major needs include the roof, foundation, and structural support of the building's second floor.

The roof needs to be replaced, Austin said. The foundation is not crumbling, she said, but it allows moisture into the building, has no vapor barrier and the crawl space is inadequate. The recommendation is for the building to be lifted and placed on a new foundation, which provides at least 4 feet of crawl space.

Standards such as accessibility are not met by the current building. There is no ADA access or toilet. To meet safety codes, doors have to be widened and an issue with a chair lift on the stairs has to be addressed. The furnace is nearing the end of useful life, while there are no major issues with electrical or plumbing.

The total cost estimate is based on a full scope of work, Austin said. The $624,000 offers a more historically correct update with wood siding and window framing. A $580,000 estimate uses vinyl siding and windows.

Historical Society Vice President Rosie Gerry called the organization one of the backbones of the community. He asked about soft costs, including labor to empty the contents of the Historical Society rooms and storage.

Selectmen asked what other costs were not included in the estimate. The estimate includes a 10% contingency for construction, but it does not include owner contingency, which Austin recommends. Kinney came up with additional costs for design, oversight and legal. He said $700,000 was the best estimate he could come up with that night.

Selectman Josh Gerritsen asked for information about use of the building and whether it has a historical designation. He said taxpayers could use the money for something else.

Selectman Jon Fishman asked questions about ways to lower the project cost, such as seeing if half the roof can be replaced, placing the building on a slab instead of a foundation, and using heat pumps rather than a furnace.

Gerry included himself when he pointed out that the members who have kept the Historical Society and other key community organizations going are getting old, and new members with "pizzazz and get up and go" are needed.

Selectman David Barrows said most of the people in the room, including himself, "won't be here" when any loan is paid off.

He asked how "we can make this attractive to the younger people in this town with families, and new groups coming up, so they would take some interest in it." He thinks new purposes for the building could bring in different sources of funding.

"Times have changed, and donated labor is not there the way it used to be," Selectman Keryn Laite said. "In life, and places like the Historical Society, you've got to train your replacement."

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Jan 17, 2020 13:13

I am sure this is a worthy project to  support, but defending the young people; Cost of living is greater and taxes are out of sight, both town, State and Federal. Sounds like it would be cheaper to raze the old and rebuild the new. Make new memories and build a more solid and up-to-date structure for the community.

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