The Gorham Parent Teacher Association is asking the town to terminate its lease on the Robie School in Little Falls because the group has folded.

Five years after the organization completed a $200,000 renovation of the 19th century schoolhouse, which had been facing demolition, the last members of PTA plan to turn the building over to the town.

The town council was expected to vote on whether to terminate the lease at its meeting Tuesday night. Gorham Town Manager David Cole said the town didn’t have any specific plans for the building.

“It looks like a good asset,” Cole said. “We need to sit down and think what’s the best way to use the building.”

The PTA had renovated the 4,000-square-foot school to use it as its headquarters and a community center after it faced demolition several years ago. Cole said the town had asked for bids to tear it down.

The town had granted the PTA a long-term, renewable lease on the two-and-a-half-story building at 666 Gray Road. Cole said the lease would have expired in 2010.

Dave Perron, the last president of the PTA, said membership had dwindled in recent years and an effort to resurrect the organization had failed. Perron and three others stepped in three years ago. He said the PTA had lost focus and membership during the renovation.

“It was about the building,” Perron said.

Perron said the responsibility of managing the building had become too overwhelming for just him and one other remaining member in the last two years. “It got to be too much,” Perron said.

Perron said events that have been booked would remain booked. “We’re going to honor rentals through December,” Perron said.

He said he looked forward to working with Cole through a transition. Cole said the town would do its best to accommodate people who have already scheduled events at the building. Cole said he didn’t know how many events had been scheduled but thought it would be a limited number.

But the demise of the Gorham PTA leaves the Smith-Wagner Post 60 of the American Legion, which met there free, wondering where it would hold its regular meetings. “We have no idea,” said Ken Mains, post adjutant, Monday. “We don’t know what’s going to happen.”

The Gorham Recreation Department is running a program for teenagers at the building, which is adjacent to recreation courts and fields in Little Falls. “We’ve had a good partnership with the recreation department,” Perron said.

Perron said the two-story building would be a great resource for the town. Rentals for functions had paid for upkeep on the building and grounds. “It can support itself,” Perron said.

But Perron said the community center was not a moneymaker. He said income did keep the lights on.

The PTA undertook the renovation project in 1995. A former town councilor, Bill Chicoine, and his wife, Kathy, spearheaded the renovation. When it opened as a community center in May of 2002, Bill Chicoine was treasurer and Kathy Chicoine had been PTA president for six years. The Chicoines, who have moved out of town, couldn’t be reached for comment this week.

The building has bathrooms with showers. It was also wired for computers, and the potential to house a satellite police office was once considered. The Chicoines also envisioned the building serving as a shelter in an emergency, according to an article in 2002.

“They did a nice job on renovation,” said Perron, who wasn’t living in Gorham at the time. “It can serve the community well.”

The Smith-Wagner post once managed the building before the PTA but also surrendered it to the town. Mains said the PTA renovation had cost $200,000, in addition to donated labor.

Built in 1888 as a school, it was named in honor of Gov. Frederick Robie of Gorham. It closed when the Little Falls School opened about 50 years ago.

Cutline (PTA 1 or 2) – A defunct Gorham PTA wants the town to tear up its lease on the former Robie School in Little Falls.


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