By John Anderson
At Monday’s Selectmen’s meeting, the board voted to declare the former Mary D. Stone and Julia Bancroft schools as surplus property with no municipal use excluding the playground areas. They also authorized Town Manager Julie Jacobson to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the redevelopment of both buildings. The RFP will include the town’s desire for over-55 housing and hopefully elderly housing.
The only dissenting vote came from Selectman Dan Carpenter who voiced his desire to retain and renovate Mary D. Stone, and he voted against declaring it surplus. During the public hearing portion of the meeting, one emailed comment was read and 5 people spoke. Although others desired to keep Mary D. Stone, the renovation costs were explained and were staggering. A figure of $2 million was mentioned, and that did not include an elevator that would be required for ADA compliance.
The 13-member Elementary School Re-Use/Disposition Advisory Group put forth the disposal suggestion after learning of the high renovation costs. Previously, they also wanted to retain Mary D. Stone for municipal use.
Wayne Page, Chairman of the Auburn Housing Authority, told the board that the Authority lacks the funds to renovate either building. “We need somebody to partner with.” Jacobson said the town administration has no intention of getting into the housing management business either. The logical alternative is to request proposals from outside developers. The RFP’s will be ready by the end of September, will be due in November, and will be chosen in December. The town has the right to reject any submitted proposal.
Another concern brought up by the Town Manager is the ongoing deterioration of both buildings since both have been vacant for nearly a year.
There was a break in at Mary D. Stone with significant vandalism including a water leak that disabled the fire alarm system. Both building roofs are also in dire need of replacement, and a quick turn over of the properties will absolve the town of responsibility.
Lori Brennan, Executive Director of the Auburn Housing Authority told the board that there are currently 284 applicants on the federal waiting list and 311 on the state waiting list, so the need for elderly housing is very evident.
In other business, the Selectmen voted to borrow $4,205,666 for one year to cover costs for the Auburn Middle School, which should be totally completed within this time frame. The town’s excellent financial status resulted in an interest rate of 1.5%. Next year, this money will be converted to long-term municipal bonds.
Selectmen also announced a public hearing at their next meeting on September 26th to hear from residents about a proposed municipal dog park near the Pakachoag Golf Course parking lot. Auburn Mass Daily will be providing more information next week. The hearing is scheduled for 7:05pm.