On Oct. 15, Biddeford City Council voted to enter a lease-purchase agreement with the Hills Beach Association for the Hills Beach Fire Station, which has been closed for a number of years. Journal Tribune file photo

BIDDEFORD — The Biddeford City Council has voted to sell the former Hills Beach Fire Station to the Hills Beach Association for $100,000 in a lease-purchase arrangement.

“Now we move forward, and take it to the Hills Beach property owners,” said HBA President Patricia Boston following the Oct.15 vote. She said the HBA would need to undertake a capital campaign to fund the lease-purchase and to bring the dilapidated building up to code.

HBA’s intention is to turn the property into a community center. Boston told the council in September it would be made available to other Biddeford residents who live outside the Hills Beach area.

The narrow 5-4 vote by the City Council approving the lease-purchase came slightly more than a month after the council declined to turn the property over to the association at no charge.

The land at 162 Hills Beach Road is owned by the city. The 2,756-squarefoot, two-story building was constructed by the Hills Beach Volunteer Fire & Rescue Unit in the 1980s. The HBA rented the upper floor from the volunteer fire unit.

City Council President John McCurry moved to table the matter until the city could secure three property appraisals, but his motion was defeated.

He said selling the property to the HBA would be “an injustice to the taxpayers.”

McCurry pointed out that the property value, as documented in city records, is greater than the $100,000 proposed purchase price and said the planning department told him the city could sell the lot, which, with an approved change of use, could become a house lot.

“The HBA has been a great group, but we need to look at that,” said Mc- Curry.

Councilor Laura Seaver pointed out that it wasn’t the Hills Beach Association that built the fire hall, and that she had concerns that is was going to a different entity.

“It was a different legal entity,” Seaver said.

She said she hadn’t had a chance to talk to the city solicitor, and that some issues she had raised had not been answered.

In a May 29 memo to the council, Boston said the labor and all the funding required for the construction of the building was provided by the Hills Beach community.

Councilor Norman Belanger said he would support the sale, and figured the $100,000 price represented the land value.

“I don’t think we should ignore the benefit the community gets,” said Belanger. “And it recognizes the contributions of the Hills Beach community.”

“A community center down there builds community,” said Mayor Alan Casavant. “You can’t put a price tag on those things. I believe the neighborhood would like something like this and it is in city’s best interests.”

The lease term is 15 years. The HBA will have one year from council approval to enter into the lease agreement. The lease payment is $5,000 annually. If the purchase is made within the first five years, 75 percent of all lease payments would be applied toward the purchase price; 50 percent of the rent would apply toward the sale price if the purchase is made between years five and 10; and 25 percent of rental fees would go toward the purchase price if the HBA bought the facility between years 10 and 15, according to the terms of the agreement. As well, the HBA may renew the lease for two additional terms of five years, at $7,500 annually for the first extension, and $10,000 annually for the second extension.

Voting in favor of the lease-purchase were councilors Michael Swanton, Amy Clearwater, Norman Belanger, Michael Ready and Marc Lessard. Councilors Robert Quattrone, John McCurry, Laura Seaver and Stephen St. Cyr were opposed.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 780-9016 or [email protected]

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