Falmouth council closer to seeking bids for school buildings

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FALMOUTH — The town is moving forward on a draft request for proposals to redevelop the former Lunt and Plummer-Motz schools.

After some debate during a workshop Monday, the Town Council put together a draft call for offers. It will vote on the matter after a public hearing on Aug. 22 at 7 p.m.

Councilors Bonny Rodden and Chris Orestis suggested additional language during the workshop that they wanted to see used in the document, which will go out to developers later this year.

Most of Orestis’ suggestions were incorporated; Rodden’s were not.

The action comes after voters rejected a $5 million proposal in June to convert Lunt School to a library, Motz to a community center and Plummer to a building for possible lease by a private organization or business.

Rodden’s language included a requirement that bidders include a “public recreational center as part of any proposal.”

That requirement drew fire from other councilors, who wanted a more open-ended call for offers.

“I don’t want to see requirements that community centers or any kind of use be in this,” Councilor Will Armitage said.

Councilor Tony Payne agreed that the invitation should be as unrestricted as possible.

“For a developer to be hamstrung by a proposal, that doesn’t make sense,” Payne said. “I would liken it to Cinderella’s stepsisters – it’s like forcing the big fat foot into the slipper; it ain’t gonna work.”

However, Rodden said she believes a majority of the council favors a community center, even if it isn’t in these particular buildings. She pushed for a resolution that would state that support, which she indicated she would draft and will be reviewed at the next meeting.

Orestis’s proposal referred to a desire for “many options to include community uses and access to the Plummer-Motz and Lunt property,” but does not require a developer to include a community center or library in the proposals.

Orestis said he wanted to see reference to the fact that both sides of the recent Question 1 debate were in favor of a community center, and cited political advertisements and public letters that stated “No on 1 means community program space sooner than later.”

“I don’t want to be wishy-washy about what happened,” Orestis said.

The council also considered whether it would have a numerical grading system for scoring offers. Rodden supported the rating system, but Chairwoman Teresa Pierce opposed scoring.

“I think we’re not going to come to consensus about what our priorities are,” she said. “I don’t think (consensus) is going to happen until we see the proposals.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.