RANDOLPH — For more than a year, Randolph officials and residents have known they might have the opportunity to acquire the Teresa C. Hamlin School building.

And now that the time to decide has arrived, they probably will say, “No thank you.”

At a public forum Thursday at the Randolph Town Office, about 20 people spent about 90 minutes weighing the possibilities for the school and whether taxpayers would be willing to foot the bill for the loan it would take to meet the anticipated price of $461,000.

The discussion was prompted by a decision made at a workshop meeting of the Gardiner-area school board in October to authorize the district’s superintendent to offer the school building to the town as required by law or to sell it to another interested party if the town were to reject it.

At the time of the workshop, town officials were unprepared to give an answer, and they were given about two months to consider their options.

The school is where Town Meeting is held and it’s the town’s warming center — equipped with a generator that belongs to the town.

“We have known for more than a year that we might have this decision,” Selectman Matt Drost said. “We have not done a lot.”

Residents considered asking for more time to complete an economic analysis to determine the best use of the space and suggested using some of the land for a new fire station.

Because the school is the property of School Administrative District 11, it is not on the town’s tax rolls; and if the town bought it, it would remain off the tax rolls but come with nearly $500,000 of debt that would raise property taxes in the town, which had 1,776 residents in the 2010 census.

“We are a bedroom community,” Gloria Fitzherbert said. “We should not put more of a tax burden on people.”

Waving her hand to take in the room, Fitzherbert, a former selectwoman, said, “We’re all older.”

While the offer represents possibilities, the residents at the forum had no strong idea about what should happen to the building.

“We’re faced with a decision, not with a need,” Drost said

While they were concerned about what another buyer might do with it, Planning Board Chairman Pete Coughlan said under its urban residential zone, no commercial uses are allowed.

Thursday’s meeting was organized to get a sense of what people were thinking, said Mark Roberts, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, and no action was taken.

Elected officials plan to take up the matter when the board meets at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

About a year ago, an ad hoc committee of the Gardiner-area school board, made up of school board members, school district and town officials and parents, started exploring the school’s future.

Over the past decade, enrollment at the school had been dropping, and that was not the first time closure had been considered.

A teacher resignation shortly after the start of the 2017-18 school year prompted the transfer of students to the Pittston Consolidated School, leaving about 40 students in a building that could accommodate 155.

After several meetings, the committee recommended closure, which the full board endorsed after a public forum.

In the townwide referendum vote in May, residents voted 268-15 in favor of the closing the school. Had the vote gone the other way, Randolph taxpayers would have been on the hook to pay $453,000 annually on top of what they pay in property tax to support the district to keep it open.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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