BERLIN — With the closing of Brown Elementary School, the city must now decide what to do with the empty building. The city council Monday night voted to form a Brown School Reuse Committee to explore options for the building.
City Manager James Wheeler said the school district will be using the building until the end of August. He said the city could put the building up for sale, issue a request for proposals, or appoint a committee to come up with a recommendation.
The city manager said he has heard are local entities interested in the building but said none have contacted the city. He said the city could ask for letters of interest to determine if there is local interest in the building.
Located on Route 16 near the Service Credit Union Heritage Park, Wheeler noted Brown School is in a desirable spot with a lot of activity in that area. The city has plans to build a river walk there.
City Councilor Diana Berthiaume said she liked a dual approach — putting together a committee and issuing a request for proposals. Councilor Lucie Remillard agreed, although she said she preferred seeking letters of interest. Remillard said she wanted to see the building purchased by an entity that will own it long-term and pay property taxes on it. Agreeing with Wheeler that the school is in a visible section of the city, Remillard stressed she wants the property to be appealing.
School Business Administrator Bryan Lamirande suggested the city might want to have Honeywell reconfigure the boiler notification so it goes to a city department. He also provided data on building costs for heat and electricity. Grenier proposed the school department continue to monitor the boiler. Councilor Mike Rozek said he expected the city would continue to maintain heat and electricity in the building through the coming winter while it looks for a new owner to take over. If the building remains in city ownership longer than that, Rozek said he would suggest draining the pipes and closing it down for future winters.
The committee will include Councilors Berthiaume and Nelson, two members from both the planning board and the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority, and representatives from the neighborhood, a private business, and the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce. Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme will serve on the committee as city staff.
Brown School was built in 1913 and the wing was added in 1959.
In other business:
• The city council approved a new three-year contract with Berlin Emergency Medical Service for ambulance services. The contract pays the medical service company a base monthly subsidy of $29,917 effective July 1. Under the terms of the contract, the company is required to maintain a minimum of two ambulances.
Acknowledging that the city is exploring having the fire department provide ambulance service, the contract allows Berlin to terminate the agreement with 60 days notice. IF the city terminates the contract, it city have to pay Berlin Emergency Medical Service from 40 to 50 percent of the entire remaining contract subsidy. That subsidy payment would be applied as a credit against the negotiated price for company’s assets.
Berlin Emergency Medical Service President Chris Dubey said prior contracts have required the ambulance service to respond to calls from Milan and Dummer under mutual aid.
The towns have volunteer ambulance force and Berlin Emergency Medical Service is frequently called to respond because the volunteers are working or not available.
Dubey said he has tried without success to convince the towns to contribute to the cost of responding to ambulance calls there. The new contract allows the city to change its mutual aid relationship with surrounding communities. Dubey said he hopes that will make towns willing to negotiate some payment schedule.
• City Manager James Wheeler reminded the public that the Androscoggin Valley Regional Refuse and Disposal District has its annual Household Hazardous Waste Collection Day this coming Saturday, June 22, from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at the district’s transfer station on Route 110 in Berlin.
• City Manager James Wheeler reported that Berlin Firefighters Pat Lefebvre and Kris Saunders took part in an event for the son of a Boston firefighter.
Firefighter Lt. Glenn Preston is battling lymphoma and was recovering from surgery. He asked members of his department to show up for his son’s first Little League baseball playoff game since he was in the hospital.
The word went out on social media and hundreds of firefighters from across New England responded. In article in the Salem, Mass., newspaper said Lefebvre and Saunders arrived with stuffed animals, firefighter T-shirts, and patches for all of Preston’s four kids.
• Mayor Grenier reappointed Richard Huot, Andre Duchesne, David Poirier, and Richard Eastman to three-year terms on the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority. The council approved the appointments. Mike Scala has resigned from the authority to accept a position as economic development director for Rochester.