University of Maine System trustees put off a decision Monday on authorizing the sale of the Stone House in Freeport after a member of the family that donated the John Calvin Stevens-designed mansion questioned the plan.

“Clearly there is some more work to be done,” said Richard Campbell, chief financial officer of the University of Southern Maine, which received the Stone House as part of a larger gift from the family of Eleanor Houston Smith. Her daughter, Sallie Smith, has questioned the sale of the house, saying the decision was up to the foundation for Wolfe’s Neck Farm, where the house is located.

The trustees’ finance committee tabled the vote to allow time for more discussion.

In 1985, the Smiths gave USM the Stone House and the 600-acre-plus Wolfe’s Neck Farm. In 1997, the farm was transferred to its current operators, the nonprofit Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation. The Smiths had stipulated in their gift that if USM did not operate the farm, it would then go to an organization selected by the American Farmland Trust.

Sallie Smith, one of six siblings who, along with their mother, agreed to give the property to USM, said the agreement conveying the house said that if the university could no longer use it as a “conference center and retreat,” it would be up to the Wolfe’s Neck Farm Foundation board “to direct the appropriate disposition of the Main House.”

Campbell said USM officials had preliminary discussions with the foundation about the Stone House in the spring, and they were seeking the trustees’ approval before continuing the talks.


“We’re trying to be respectful of what (the 1985 agreement) says,” Campbell said.

Smith said she isn’t opposed to USM selling the house, but wants the proper procedure followed.

Kelley Wiltbank, an attorney for the University of Maine System, said late last week that the farm foundation board does need to OK any final deal, which would also have to go back to the full system board for its approval. Calls to the foundation for comment were not returned Monday.

USM primarily uses the Stone House to house a master’s program in creative writing, and officials say the building is used only about 40 days a year, which doesn’t justify annual expenses of up to $110,000. It would take millions to update its systems and make it accessible to people with disabilities, USM officials said.

The idea of the sale was first raised this spring as USM was trying to iron out a final budget for 2014-15. USM plans to cut some programs and will lay off faculty and staff members to close a $14 million gap in the budget.

Also Monday, the finance committee approved the final USM budget, which included $2.5 million in cuts to help close the gap in USM’s $134 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

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