The city of Saco, the school department and owners of the Toddle Inn may be reaching an agreement after a plan to house the school’s pre-kindergarten program didn’t materialize last fall. The school had agreed to pay $24,000 a month to lease the property but declared the lease void after learning the electrical systems had not been inspected since 2005 and business park covenants appeared to rule out location of non-tax paying entities there. Liz Gotthelf/Journal Tribune

SACO — The city and school department appear headed to some sort of conclusion to the saga of the Toddle Inn property that was intended to become the site of a pre-kindergarten program, but hasn’t. City officials say they can’t divulge the terms yet. 

There is a concept draft of an agreement, City Administrator Bryan Kaenrath said.

“It is a tentative settlement agreement so right now, planning and codes are working on clearing the conditions, and if they are met, we would enter into a settlement agreement,” said Kaenrath by phone on Monday. 

The City Council on Feb. 24 approved a motion that would see the administrator, based on certain conditions, “execute the settlement agreement and any related documents to effectuate the settlement, provided the other parties (Saco School Department and Toddle Inn), also agree to execute the settlement agreement.” Conditions include that the codes enforcement office grant a new occupancy permit authorizing the use of 5 Willey Road for a public/private school, and a review by the city planner of conditions imposed of the site plan permit for the property. The vote was 6 to 1, with Councilor Nathan Johnston dissenting. 

The Saco School Board approved a similar motion two days later. 

The school department entered into a 10-year, $24,000 a month lease with owners of the Toddle Inn on May 1, intending to use the building, located in the Spring Hill Business Park, for a pre-kindergarten program, but that didn’t happen. The school department notified the owners in November that it considered the lease void and demanded the return of money it had already paid. Kaenrath said the school department stopped paying rent on the property that month.


City officials maintained that covenants prevent both ownership and use of non-taxpaying entities in the business park; that the building’s electrical system had not been inspected since 2005; that there had never been an electrical inspection or permits issued for the pool and pool house building at the property, and when the former Toddle Inn building was converted from natural gas to propane, no electrical inspection of the heating or cooling equipment took place, according to a Sept. 18 Journal Tribune story by Liz Gotthelf. 

Saco Mayor William Doyle on Feb. 28 said both the City Council and school board had authorized him, Kaenrath, School Board Chair Art Tardif and Superintendent Dominic DePatsy to take part in a mediation discussion with Toddle Inn representatives on Feb. 13. The motions came as a result of that session. 

Doyle declined to be specific about the terms. 

“If all parties agree (to the terms), we will come out with a public statement,” said Doyle. He said the motion gives Kaenrath the authority to sign the agreement. 

Toddle Inn attorney Timothy Bryant did not immediately return an email seeking comment. 

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