PEPPERELL -- Discussion surrounding the Peter Fitzpatrick school continued on foot Monday evening.
Two hours prior to their bi-weekly meeting, Pepperell Selectmen met with North Middlesex School District of Plant and Facilities Oscar Hills, Pepperell Building Inspector Harry Cullinan and Fire Chief Toby Tyler for a tour through the Peter Fitzpatrick facility. They later discussed the issue at their 7 p.m. meeting.
Hills led the tour through the building's three sections, A wing, built in 1994 and housing NMRSD SPED classrooms and administrative offices, B wing, erected between '66 and '67, which houses PACH, and C wing, the oldest area built between 1938 and '39.
The central concern surrounds the lease of the building by the Town of Pepperell to the school district, who is maintaining the building along with occupying.
In July of 2013, the lease is up and the parcel will come back under control of the town. Aside from the SPED students, about 24 administrators make up the occupants, Hills said.
The cost to keep electricity and heating in the building is between $80,000 to $85,000 each year, according to Hills.
Custodial and other maintenance expenses could bump that cost up to $100,000 annually, Selectman Joseph Sergi said, a high cost if the town were to maintain it themselves.
Insurance costs were unknown, but Sergi said that would add even more.
Hills said he also has custodians coming in to clean the building regularly.
Re-zoning of the parcels, an article that was voted down at the last town meeting, might be coming back onto a town meeting warrant in the fall, the selectmen said. All three said they are in favor of moving forward with the zoning change.
Options and opportunities, simply, is the reason, said Sergi. Pepperell suffers from $20 million in leakage spending annually, he said, there have been three grocery chains that have expressed interest with the mill site, but the frontage and attraction is on Main Street.
"They can tell the parcel is underutilized," he said.
Many comments against the re-zoning at the last town meeting regarded the loss of character the parcel may suffer if a developer were to come in.
Selectman Michael Green said he did not want a wholesale change, just something different.
Keeping it zoned residential was also a sticking point at town meeting, but Sergi explained that in 2010 26 permits for new homes were pulled, in 2011 there were 13 and this year, 6.
With development comes the possibility of "potentially getting millions, plus tax dollars going back into coffers," he said.
Instead of a the building being liability, Green said, it could be turned into an asset.
According to Hills, the mechanics are pretty solid, the building features two oil-or-gas heating plants and one electric plant. His main concern, he said, was the asphalt roof which "would be the first thing to go."
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