State may lease Plummer School in Falmouth; food pantry hopes to expand

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FALMOUTH — The Town Council on Monday gave the go-ahead to negotiate a lease of the Plummer School building to the state office of Child Development Services.

But councilors also indicated they’re not thrilled about the potential up-front cost to the town.

CDS, which is part of the Maine Department of Education, provides early childhood education and intervention programs for pre-school age children with special needs.

As part of the proposed lease, the town would renovate the building and the costs of the renovation would be paid back over the 10-year term.

The council reviewed renovation estimates by Oak Point Associates, which put the cost of preparing Plummer for CDS at approximately $700,000.

“I find it perplexing and a bit amazing that we’re housing kids currently in this space and it’s this much money to renovate,” Councilor Teresa Pierce said.

Several other councilors also expressed disbelief at the proposed price tag.

“I think we can get these people in here for half as much money than is being quoted here,” Councilor Fred Chase said, adding that “engineers will keep engineering until someone stops them.”

Councilors also briefly considered a proposal to lease the Lunt School building to CDS, however the majority of the council was not in favor. The Lunt School is also being sought by the Falmouth Memorial Library board as a future location for the library.

“I’m not interested in renovating Lunt for this group,” Pierce said. “I think they’re a good fit for Plummer.”

The Oak Point renovation estimate for Lunt was approximately $500,000.

Neither estimate included radon and lead testing or remediation, if it is required, Town Manager Nathan Poore said.

“The lead is the more worrying thing for me,” Poore said.

Food pantry expansion

The council also approved an application for Community Development Block Grant funds for planning and design of a possible expansion of the Falmouth Food Pantry.

“This is just planning funds to look at a bump-out of the space. It doesn’t commit you to any construction money,” Poore said.

Dorothy Blanchette, of the pantry, explained that the organization needs more space to serve the growing needs of the community.

“About 100 families from Falmouth use the food pantry right now,” she said.

Blanchette said Falmouth is one of 11 food pantries in greater Portland that welcome and serve clients from other communities, and that doing so makes it eligible for federal aid it would not qualify for otherwise.

However, she said, the pantry is cramped in its current space and has to assign clients numbers because they cannot all be inside the building at the same time. This also causes privacy issues when Blanchette needs to discuss confidential information with the clients, such as financial details to certify the need for assistance.

“One plan is to have a small office for interviewing clients so we don’t have to interview them outside on the sidewalk or in the car,” Blanchette said.

While it was initially proposed that the pantry occupy the same building as Community Programs, which may move to the Motz School space, Blanchette indicated being in the Town Hall offers advantages, including proximity to other social services.

The Yarmouth Town Council is also expected to vote at its next meeting on whether to support the CDBG fund application for the Falmouth Food Pantry.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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