MONMOUTH — Monmouth Middle School and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School students will move in 2020 to a new, consolidated school in Monmouth — and residents will decide if they want the town to own the old buildings.

“No matter what we do here, there are costs involved (if the buildings return to the town),” said Selectboard Vice Chairman Timothy A. McDonald.

To outline its options, Monmouth formed a school reuse task force, which met with residents last week to discuss the condition of the buildings and brainstorm about potential future uses for the facilities.

In 2017, Regional School Unit 2 voters approved building a consolidated school in Monmouth, which would house students from the two schools. The state had released a list of schools that qualified for funding through its capital school construction program; the middle school ranked ninth on the list, while the elementary was 56th.

“By this time next year, the new consolidated school should be open,” Monmouth Town Manager Curtis Lunt said Wednesday in a phone interview.

Monmouth contracted Mike McCormick, of McCormick Facilities Management, to study the buildings’ condition.

“The buildings are tired,” he said at the informational meeting.

McGee Construction performs site work Sept. 12, 2018, at the future consolidated middle-elementary school in Monmouth.

Funding for capital improvements is often the last to pass on a school budget, he said, and Monmouth’s buildings have been maintained like most school facilities.

In McCormick’s opinion, the elementary school is in better shape than the middle school because it would take less financially to improve and maintain. The middle school, built in the mid-1800s, has a solid granite foundation, but there is moisture seepage.

“I caution you to look at historic preservation,” he said, warning residents that maintaining the building with historic integrity is costly.

Cary Tyson, economic development specialist for the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, told residents if the buildings were kept by the town, they could be sold, leased, mothballed or demolished. Potential uses of the buildings, he said, could include public sector, commercial, residential and mixed.

Tyson also gave ideas for alternate uses of the buildings based on a market comparison of other school facilities that were reused. In many of those cases, the buildings were used as senior housing.

The new consolidated school, which will house Monmouth’s elementary and middle school students, is seen under construction Thursday in Monmouth.

Resident ideas for use included a community center, a vocational facility, fairgrounds and a recreation center.

The cost to bring the middle school to new condition, McCormick projected, would be $6 million to $12 million; the elementary school would cost around $6 million to do the same.

He estimated the buildings’ annual operating cost — if they were to be put to regular use — would be around $72,000 for the elementary school and $122,000 for the middle school. His figures were based on average operating costs at the school since 2014, and included having insurance on the facilities, installing a security system at the elementary school and keeping the fire detection systems up-to-date.

Those values, McCormick said, could fluctuate with the cost of heating. He warned against turning the heat off completely in a building if it were not going to be used, suggesting instead “mothballing” it, which means putting it into storage by lowering the temperatures to 50 or 55 degrees and draining the plumbing. Heatless-building deterioration can be seen in mold, and structure expansion and contraction, he said.

If they were mothballed, McCormick projected an annual operating cost for the elementary school to be $37,000 and $58,000 for the middle school.

Another option would be to demolish the buildings. The cost to do so would be $195,000 to $365,000 at the elementary school; at the middle school, the projected cost is $400,000 to $750,0000.

The presence of hazardous materials would drive the cost to the higher range, McCormick said, and he confirmed asbestos is present in both buildings.

Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School, shown Thursday in Monmouth.

The next step, Lunt said Wednesday, is to draft an article with an attorney for Monmouth selectmen to approve in March, which would pave the way for an article to be placed on the June referendum. On this article, residents would decide whether the schools come back to the town or stay in the hands of RSU 2.

“I don’t think the Cottrell school will be a burden to the town,” McDonald said during the informational meeting last week.

The next public informational meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Monmouth Middle School.

Abigail Austin — 621-5631

[email protected]

Twitter: AbigailAustinKJ


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