BURNHAM — The fate of the Burnham Village School will be decided by voters Tuesday in three separate ballot questions.

Should the town sell the building for $50,000 or more? Should the town sell the building for $150,000 or more? Or, should the building become the town office?

First Selectman Stuart Huff said he has no recommendation on the issue, but he’ll be relieved when it’s finally settled, regardless of outcome. For more than two years, the school issue has been the subject of heated debate in the community — a special town meeting, a survey, a straw poll and three competing petitions circulated by residents in the spring and summer.

The town acquired the 5,000-square-foot building in 2010 from the school district, Huff said. It was originally built in the 1950s, with an addition built in the ’60s. For decades, the school served students from kindergarten to fourth grade, but when enrollment began to decline, the school was consolidated elsewhere, leaving an empty building that was donated to the town.

Within a year, the town tried to sell it to the highest bidder for $50,000 — a move that was rejected by voters in a special town meeting in June 2011, Huff said.

In March, the night before Town Meeting, voters opposed, 127-54, a proposal to move the Town Office to the school in a nonbinding poll.

Ann Goodblood, an office assistant for the town, said she wanted to make certain that the town listened to voters in the straw poll, so she circulated a petition in May to sell the building for “no less that $50,000.”

A real estate company estimated the building’s value between $65,000 and $135,000, Huff said.

Goodblood said the aging building requires too much work — including a new heating system — and the real estate market is too slow to fetch much more than $50,000. She feels it’s better to sell it quickly to a retailer or a startup company and add the property to the tax rolls, rather than hold out for more and absorb any ongoing maintenance costs while the property is on the market.

Two more petitions cropped up afterward. One sought to increase the minimum selling price from $50,000 to $150,000; another seeks to convert it to the Town Office. Resident Nancy Edge, along with others in town, helped circulate both petitions.

Edge said the price should be raised because the school received significant renovations less than 10 years ago. Huff said those renovations amounted to $300,000. Edge, however, said she would be just as pleased to see the town keep the building and use it as the Town Office. She cited a 48-page study conducted by architecture students at University of Maine at Augusta.

The study found that the building needs updating and it offered two possible uses.

“The school could better serve Burnham’s needs than the current Town Office,” according to the report. “It also offers the potential for future growth and the possibility of generating additional income through rent/leasable spaces.”

Edge said she hopes voters will gather information about the issue before Election Day.

“I want what the town wants, as long as they know the facts,” she said.


Ben McCanna — 861-9239
[email protected]

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