STANDISH — For decades, decisions about the town business of Standish were made ina two-story, clapboard-sided building on Ossipee Trail. Now, the townhas to decide what to do with that building – its former town hall.

The Town Council will vote Tuesday whether to sell the building and use the money to make improvements to its village center.

After moving its offices to the former Albion Howe School around 1955, the town gave the building to a charitable organization called the Ladies Circle, on the condition that it be returned to the town if the group disbanded. That happened this spring.

The few members left in the Ladies Circle, which rented out the hall to businesses for years and gave the proceeds to a local food pantry, decided they no longer wanted the responsibility of maintaining it.

In a letter to the town this spring, the group said it would give the building back and recommended letting the Standish Historical Society move in, said the society’s president, Glenna Jamison.

Jamison said the historical society’s location on the second floor of The Old Red Church on Oak Hill Road is not handicapped-accessible.

“Even all of our members can’t go up there,” she said.

The historical society wants to keep the space in the church as a museum, and have a room in the former town hall for historical and genealogical research, said Jamison.

The society had hoped to rent out the rest of the building, as the Ladies Circle did, before learning the town had a different plan.

After meeting privately on Aug. 14, the Town Council directed Town Manager Gordon Billington to prepare a request for proposals to buy the building.

Billington said the town couldn’t give the building to the historical society, as it did to the Ladies Circle, because the charter now requires competitive bidding for any town building that’s sold.

The town could lease it to the historical society, he said, but councilors felt it made more sense to sell it for commercial use and get it back on the tax rolls.

If the council decides to sell it, there will be a minimum bid of $170,000, Billington said. The assessed value of the building, which is 4,200 square feet on a 0.4-acre lot, is $302,000, according to town records.

Billington said the request for proposals also requires bidders to indicate whether they plan structural changes to the building, which was built in 1880 and has historical significance to the town.

Billington said there are offices on the first floor and, on the second floor, an open room with a stage that once was used for dances and plays.

The property, in the center of town with ample room for parking in back, has “good potential” for commercial use, he said.

The building has been vacant since a hair salon moved out a few years ago. Before that, it was a doctor’s office.

“We’re struggling to get businesses back in town, and that was a building that always created a number of jobs,” said Town Councilor Phil Pomerleau.

Pomerleau said business owners prefer to own their buildings and some companies have already expressed interest in buying the old town hall.

One of them is Tower Publishing, now on Saco Road, Billington said. He said Publisher Michael Lyons has indicated that he would consider allowing the historical society to use space in the building if he bought it.

Lyons couldn’t be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

The proposal in front of the council is to use proceeds from the sale of the building for improvements to the Standish Corner village, in which it lies. Pomerleau said that could include flagpoles, new lighting or sidewalks along the streets in the town center.

But, he said, that’s all up for debate.

“I’m sure we’ll get some feedback,” Pomerleau said.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Standish Municipal Building.

Billington said that if the council decides to sell the building, bids will be due to the town at the end of September and the council could choose a buyer in October.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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