We have been reviewing the considerable traffic of emails by concerned citizens about the renovation of Lura Libby School and the presentation at the public hearing. One of the power point slides represented that Watts Hall was more marketable than the Lura Libby School. What was really meant by this slide was that the first floor of Watts Hall is more marketable as commercial retail space for lease or sale than the Lura Libby School building. No decision or representation is made concerning the marketability of the second floor of Watts Hall.
I read the flyer being circulated entitled “Why we are voting no on Article 2 and 3.” We disagree with two factual assumptions made in this flyer—the space calculations and the cost to build new.
The flyer claims that there is no need to use 23,000 square feet for 7 town employees, 1 recreational director, 6 police officers and the food pantry (approximately 14 employees). This space calculation is significantly overstated.
The 14 employees plus the food pantry will actually occupy less than 9,000 square feet of the Lura Libby building. The Town plans to remove the 1996 addition to the school. It was never intended to be permanent. Approximately 2,000 square feet on the North end of the property is to be reserved for a possible commercial tenant or for the fire department, so an additional 2,000 square feet would have to be subtracted from the total of 19,000 square feet. The building contains approximately 8,000 square feet of multi-purpose rooms, corridors and bathrooms. This leaves approximately 9,000 square feet for use by the 14 employees.
The claim in the flyer that we simply could build a new “one right size town office complex located on a single location” is unrealistic given the high cost to build new. For example, our town assessor, David Martucci, compared the fair market value of the Lura Libby School in its present condition with the cost to rebuild that school new. David conservatively estimates that the Lura Libby School today has a market value of approximately 2.5 million dollars, and that the cost to build the school new would be more than 5.5 million dollars.
David Martucci also admits that in arriving at the 5.5 million dollar figure he did not take into consideration that there are now tariffs on steel imports and tariffs on aluminum products from China, and while the U.S. produces a fair amount of steel, U.S. construction relies heavily on imported steel and aluminum. In Maine, the larger contractors are busy constructing additions to hospitals and constructing schools. Because there is a high demand for their services, the law of supply and demand comes into effect, meaning to say, the costs would be more for their services.
The Town’s Standing Municipal Facilities Committee spent more than a year reviewing the issues of how best to proceed given the entire inventory of land and buildings in the Town of Thomaston. The Town is considering, at the very least, selling or leasing the bottom floor of the Watts Hall building to raise some income.
The renovations to the Lura Libby School are limited to 1.1 million dollars. I would encourage the voters to vote yes on Articles 2 and 3 at the upcoming special town meeting.
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