PEPPERELL -- As the last occupant of the decommissioned Peter Fitzpatrick School vacated, town officials remain uncertain about what to do with the structure and land.
A feasability study committee that was formed this past summer must decide if the 55,000-square-foot building, valued at $9 million, is a burden or a boon. Committee Chairman Craig Hansen said his group hopes to have an article on the spring Town Meeting warrant next April.
Among the proposed uses are:
* Rent out space for commercial and retail shops;
* Establish municipal office extensions;
* Sell as is;
* Senior housing;
* A senior center.
Plans for mixed-use have also been discussed. In a recent public forum, about 40 residents offered their thoughts.
A follow-up open meeting will be held at Town Hall on Dec. 18, when options may be narrowed.
The committee brought in Brett Peletier, chief operating officer of Kirk and Company, a Boston-based real estate appraisal and brokerage firm. Peletier's specialty is municipal properties and vacant school buildings. His initial report to the committee dampened ideas of selling or mothballing.
Peletier gave examples of other cases where communities were forced to sell at "pennies on the dollar" for decommissioned schools, if they sold at all. Many sit "mothballed" for years, ultimately succumbing to "demo by neglect."
Developers are put off by several deterrents to purchase including the $1 million cost of demolition, zoning and special permit limitations, he said.
Holding on to the building without tenants seemed no better of an option. Even empty, the building would still cost the town $28,000 per year in insurance, plus soft costs like security and grounds' maintenance. And, ultimately a decision would have to made anyway to a building that will continue to age.
Peletier has agreed to six hours of pro bono consultation to perform data analytics.
"Nothing is off the table," said Hansen.
Suitors that attended the Dec. 4 public meeting included a food hub to be run by local farmers, an alternative school, and those who wanted to expand town parks and recreation operations.
The groups bringing the proposals even suggested sharing the space among a few entities.