GROTON – Disposition of public buildings was at the top of the agenda for the Board of Selectmen when members were asked to address questions dealing with former elementary schools Tarbell and Prescott.
Dealing with the latter, selectmen were informed by town manager Mark Haddad that a recently issued RFP (Request For Proposal) yielded an offer by developer Gregg Yanchenko to buy the historic Prescott building for $35,000 and use it for office space.
According to Haddad, wording in the purchase and sales agreement also included a guarantee by Yanchenko to lease space outside the building to the town for $1 per year for use as much needed municipal parking.
Although the developer planned to spend $65,000 to prepare the land for use as parking, the town would maintain it afterwards and pay liability insurance as it does for a similarly leased lot adjacent to Town Hall.
In addition, Yanchenko will agree to provide a walkway from the Prescott property to the rail trail and allow the town use of the old schoolyard area for at least four public events each year.
Finally, wording in the purchase and sales agreement will give the town an option to buy back the Prescott property if it is sold for the buying price of $35,000 and the cost of upgrading the parking lot and renovations.
Yanchenko told selectmen at their meeting of April 22 that he planned to invest an estimated $1.7 million in renovation work in the building which he characterized as virtually uninhabitable as it now stands despite current occupancy by the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District central offices.
Although selectmen were comfortable with most of the provisions in the agreement, Joshua Degen expressed reservations about a final item that would give Yanchenko a break on potential property taxes by graduating them slowly upward over a 7 year period.
Fellow board member Jack Petropoulos also objected saying that the $35,000 sale price was too low and that the town’s new public buildings marketing committee have a chance to weigh in on the matter.
Nevertheless, selectmen voted in favor of bringing the question of sale of the building and authorization for selectmen to sell it as articles on the spring town meeting warrant allowing residents to decide on the issue themselves.
On the subject of the Tarbell School, selectmen were told by Haddad that a long-standing deal with Robin Kane, the owner of Country Kids day care, to buy the building had gone off course somewhat.
Hadded said after a number of postponements in closing the sale, Country Kids has since moved into a building at Mill Run Plaza, the former location of Anytime Fitness. However, Kane had expressed interest in going through with the purchase of Tarbell with the intention of selling it in turn to an interested party.
According to the purchase-and-sales agreement, Kane was to have paid the town $35,000 to buy Tarbell and close on the deal by Feb. 15.
Concerned that a resale of the building may not meet the town’s desire that use of Tarbell remain as something related to education or useful to the community, Haddad consulted with Groton’s legal counsel who advised that selectmen vote to void the purchase and sales agreement with Country Kids.
Although board members were not opposed to the move, Degen worried that by not having Kane in attendance during the vote to air any objections, it might expose the town to a lawsuit, should she decide to contest the decision.
Selectmen chose to wait until April 28 for a vote to void the agreement.