OAKLAND — Town councilors Wednesday voted unanimously to terminate a lease with Norm Vigue for the Old School House on Church Street, keep possession of the property and work with the Oakland Area Historical Society to get it painted.

The 4-0 vote followed a lengthy discussion among councilors, historical society members and residents about what should happen to the old building, which was used as a schoolhouse from 1804 to 1924 and later, as a firehouse and then for town storage.

About 30 people turned out at the fire station for the meeting, at which society President Alberta Porter told councilors the building is important, as it is the only old schoolhouse left in the town. The Historical Society tried several years ago to work on the building, but no grants were available because of the poor economy, she said. She said the society’s hope is that it can be a community project prompting people in town to pitch in to help spruce it up.

Councilor Dana W. Wrigley said he would like to see the building preserved as an historical landmark.

“I, personally, would love to see it turned into a one-room school again, if it could be,” Wrigley said.

Vigue, whose business, Central Maine Hydroseeding, is next door to the school, contracted with the town in 2013 to lease the building for five years at no cost, with the intention of using it to store a hydroseeding machine. Historical society member Kelly Roderick asked why Vigue did not paint the building and do other work to it as he said he was going to do as part of his contract with the town.

Vigue said the hydroseeding machine did not fit into the building, so he could not use it for that. He said he maintained the inside of the building and made sure it was secure so no one could enter it, but he got busy and did not get a chance to paint it, although he wants to do so.

Historical society members said they could not apply for grants to restore the building unless the society owns the building. Porter said she would like to see students help work on the building as part of community service; she also said maybe contractors and residents would pitch in to help.

“I’d like to just see it look good to begin with,” she said.

Council Chairman Michael Perkins said a coat of paint would go a long way toward making the building look better. In response to a question from Town Manager Gary Bowman, Vigue said he is not using the building, which is close to his own building.

“So if for some reason the Historical Society could take over and bring it back to its original grandeur, it will help the value of your property?” Bowman asked Vigue.

“Yes,” Vigue replied.

Bowman said land north of the building could be used for parking.

“I, personally, think that that building holds some significant value as far as its historical value,” Bowman said.

He said that if Vigue agreed and the historical society could raise funds to do work to the building, the town could sign ownership over to the society and work with the organization, which he said has some new energy.

Wrigley agreed, saying the society could be given time to come up with a plan for the building. Porter said the first plan is to get it painted. Perkins said Messalonskee High School has a Day of Caring on May 20, and he could contact officials there to see if students could help scrape or paint.

“Just an idea,” he said. “It’s quick — I know it’s quick, but it’s coming right up.”

Perkins made a motion to have the town continue ownership of the building and work diligently with the historical society to paint it. As part of the motion, Perkins said the town would get periodic reports from the Historical Society on its plans. He said that meanwhile, the town can check to see if there is paint available and see if volunteers can be rounded up to help. Wrigley seconded his motion, which passed 4-0. Councilor Don Borman was absent from the meeting.

Councilors took a second vote to terminate, because of inactivity at the building, the lease with Vigue. It passed, 4-0.

In other matters Wednesday, Regional School Unit 18 Superintendent Gary Smith gave a presentation on the proposed 2016-17 school budget, which is $34.6 million and a 0.65 percent increase from, or about $200,000 more than, the current budget. A districtwide budget meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in the Messalonskee Performing Arts Center, where residents of the RSU 18 towns of Oakland, Belgrade, Sidney, Rome and China will vote on 16 spending and assessment articles and come up with a final proposed budget number.

Then on May 24, residents in their respective towns will go to the polls to vote the budget up or down; they also will vote whether to continue voting on the budget through the same validation process.

Smith said the proposed budget represents eight fewer staff positions, most of which have been vacated through attrition. The RSU 18 board of directors approved the proposed budget April 6. That board made about $90,000 in cuts to the initial proposal, according to Smith.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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