FAYETTE — Should the town take out a 10-year, $100,000 bond for Starling Hall renovations?

Fayette taxpayers will answer that question next month at Town Meeting.

The interest on the bond would cost $23,252 at a fixed 3.99% interest rate, making the total debt $123,252. The annual payment would be $12,325. The bond wouldn’t affect the tax commitment this year.

This photo, taken Wednesday, shows Starling Hall in North Fayette. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

The nonprofit organization Friends of Starling Hall has committed itself to raising the money to pay off the bond, so the expense is not planned to come from taxpayers. If the organization cannot pay off the debt, however, the town would be on the hook to do so.

That possibility created some concern at Fayette’s Selectboard meeting Tuesday night.

“I don’t think the taxpayers should be on the hook for the work on the Grange hall,” resident Audrey Bamford said. “$100,000 won’t begin to cover it.”

She also worried that the Grange still could ask for the hall back, “and we’d have no choice but to turn that building over to the Grange.”

Woodpecker damage is plainly visible Wednesday on corner boards of Starling Hall in North Fayette. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Town Manager Mark Robinson confirmed that.

“The Grange reserves the right to use the building if at some point in the future the Grange chooses to reorganize and be revitalized, which is a possibility,” he said.

Unused, the building does not cost the town anything to maintain. Operating costs in the past were around $3,500 annually, Robinson said.

This article is not supported by the town’s Budget Committee. Selectwoman Lacy Badeau voted against the article during the meeting, after a public hearing on the warrant articles. Selectman Berndt Graf abstained, and Selectboard Chairman Jon Beckman was absent.

The vision for the hall, according to Friends of Starling Hall member Donna Barrett, is to see the hall become a “a place for community to get together.”

It could be a permanent place for the Fayette Historical Society or Scouts, she said during Tuesday’s public hearing on the warrant articles. Barrett also suggested it could be a place for the Town Office and the library.

The hall was built in the 1870s and formerly was Starling Grange 156. In 2017, the building was raised off its foundation and set back from Route 17. Friends of Starling Hall was formed in 2014 after residents voted at Town Meeting to keep the hall rather than sell it.

According to an engineer’s assessment, dated in 2015, some the of the work needed on the building includes new electrical wiring throughout, plumbing, restrooms to meet ADA code requirements, a fire suppression system, a well, an energy-efficient heating system and to be brought into compliance with current building codes.

After the public hearing, the Fayette Selectboard approved a final draft of the warrant, approving a $2,051,238 spending plan for the school and a $756,479 municipal spending plan.

The spending plan for the school is $57,722 — 2.89% — more than last year’s approved budget of $1,993,516.

The municipal spending plan is $50,570 less than last year’s — a 6.26% decrease — from last year’s $807,049 budget.

The Selectboard turned down an article item to set money aside to hire a consultant to look into the effect of closing the school.

Instead, the board will draft a letter to the School Committee, requesting it look further at the effect of a school closure and potentially forming a committee to look at cost centers.

“Is there another area school that even can absorb 80 students?” Badeau asked.

Vice Chairwoman Nancy Cronin said she did not think so.

Residents expressed concern during the hearing that $3,000, as the article was written, would not be enough to cover the costs of looking into school closure.

Selectmen amended an article to set aside $40,000 instead of $30,000 for capital improvements. The $10,000 increase would support the Town Office, for a total of $15,000; $10,000 would be for fire equipment; and $21,306 for public works equipment, which includes $6,306 that would be transferred from the salt shed reserve account.  

Town Meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 15 at Fayette Central School. The secret-ballot municipal election will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. June 11 at the fire station.

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