Hanson School: It Doesn’t Add Up

Unsafe Structure Notice

Unsafe Structure Notice attached to every entrance to Hanson School and Gymnasium.

Title 17, Chapter 91, Subchapter 4, §2851. Dangerous buildings
Whenever the municipal officers… find that a building or structure… is structurally unsafe; unstable; unsanitary; constitutes a fire hazard; is unsuitable or improper for the use or occupancy to which it is put; constitutes a hazard to health or safety because of inadequate maintenance, dilapidation, obsolescence or abandonment; or is otherwise dangerous to life or property, they may after notice and hearing on this matter adjudge the same to be a nuisance or dangerous and may make and record an order prescribing what disposal must be made of that building or structure.

That’s the justification by Buxton Town Officials for the condemnation of the Hanson School and gymnasium in Buxton Center. A list of repairs (PDF) which appears to be a duplication of the repairs performed during the previous renovation is the supporting evidence.

Hanson School and Gymnasium

Hanson School and Gymnasium after it was posted as an unsafe structure.

An examination of the list of repairs may support the argument that the condemnation posting was motivated by other factors. The argument is that nothing on the list would lead a reasonable person to the conclusion that the building is structurally unsafe, unstable, unsanitary, dilapidated, etc. While interviewing the Code Enforcement Officer for Buxton, it became apparent that the order to declare the building unsafe came not from his office but from an unnamed “higher up”.

A review of the meeting minutes of the Maine School Administrative District 6 Board of Directors and Finance/Facilities Committee indicate that there was strong support among the board members to complete the demolition this summer. During the May 18, 2015 Board meeting it was voted “To authorize the Superintendent of Schools to demolish the S. D. Hanson Building located in Buxton, Maine, during the current fiscal year using funds from the 2014-2015 budget.” The weighted voted passed 688 to 85.

During the Finance/Facilities Committee Meeting on June 4, 2015, one member “shared his concern that the Board has already voted and now two Board members have taken it upon themselves to go off in a different direction from the Board vote.” At the same meeting it was observed that the usefulness of the school building was limited by a number of issues in addition to the repairs and mold remediation. Among the chief limitations is the fact that the septic system leach field lies on a neighboring property. The agreement with the neighboring property owner prohibits the school board from leasing the building to another party.

The statements made and votes taken during the MSAD meetings do support the argument that there was a push to complete the project on a schedule that did not allow for a public vote. Whether this push has illegally limited public participation in the process is still open to question.

As of July 1, 2015, demolition has not yet begun.