GROTON -- Preparing to dispose of the 120-year-old Squannacook Hall, the Board of Selectmen learned that an offer to sell the building had been prepared for official release by the town manager.
The news came at the board's meeting of Jan. 7, when Town Manager Mark Haddad informed selectmen that he had prepared an request for proposals to be advertised in local media outlets.
The RFP, said Haddad, would invite interested investors to bid on purchasing the property from the town and offer suggestions on what they might do with it if they were allowed to buy it.
The historic structure has been left empty and unused for the past several years ever since board members chose to shutter it until a decision could be made on what to do with it.
But that was easier said than done.
Squannacook Hall had been the headquarters of the Recreation Department before that group was discontinued and its operations taken over by the Parks Department. By 2007, the hall was being used only intermittently by the local Boy Scout troop.
Since major activity ceased at the hall, selectmen later authorized the town's building supervisor to conduct only minimal maintenance at the building with the intention of keeping only its basic utilities in operating condition.
It was acknowledged, however, even that would not have been enough to keep the building from deteriorating over the long term.
For that reason, selectmen explored ways to dispose of the structure until finally deciding to seek a buyer for the property.
Besides major structural and maintenance work needed to get the building back into useful condition as well as questions of parking, any developer interested in the site would likely have to first address the problem of septic disposal.
Due to the small size of the lot upon which the building is located, space for a new septic system is limited.
At one point, town officials thought they had a deal with a neighbor to install a septic system across the street, but that arrangement later fell through after landowner George Wheatley had second thoughts about the project.
Although selectmen at the Jan. 7 meeting looked favorably on the RFP as proposed, they were concerned that not enough stress was laid on preserving the historical integrity of Squannacook Hall.
Board member Joshua Degen suggested that for the first round at least, a condition of the sale should include a prohibition against any demolition work at the building. Should the RFP fail to attract buyers, then a second try might drop the preservation requirement.
"I want to see this succeed and have the town liquidate the property," said Degen, by way of not having his intentions be misunderstood.
Fellow board members agreed to the condition and instructed Haddad to add the pertinent language to the RFP.
Also at the Jan. 7 meeting, selectmen:
* Voted to ratify the appointment of Ellen Baxendale to the Commission on Accessibility.
* Chose to schedule spring Town Meeting on April 29 in accordance with the town Charter, but, interested in holding the meeting on a Saturday instead, instructed Haddad to check if a venue could be found to accommodate that day of the week. Board members were expected to set the final date at their next meeting.
* Held a public hearing in joint session with the Finance Committee to review and entertain comment on four articles to be listed on the warrant, including the appropriation of funds to cover the cost of using herbicides for weed control at Lost Lake, the appropriation of funds for the demolition and/or replacement of Fitch's Bridge, and a citizens' petition seeking the establishment of a Lost Lake Sewer District. A fourth article will seek the appropriation of funds to pay for a new Center Fire Station. Residents are invited to attend an open house at the current Center Fire Station located on Station Avenue on Jan. 13 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. The purpose of the open house is to allow residents to see first hand the conditions at the old fire house and the need for its replacement.