To the Editor:
I’ve questioned long-term Auburn residents about the former Great Falls School and the politics surrounding its present state of affairs. It seems that city politicians have bounced the old building back and forth for years and years.
Several studies of the school have been completed in the last 10 years (to the tune of approx. $70,000, I hear), and they all found basically the same things. The measurements of rooms, hallways, the auditorium, gymnasium, etc. were the same in the last study as in the first.
As it stands, the heating and utility use is a drain on city funds. The building gets more and more run down as time passes and vandals break windows and use the grounds as their toilet. A quick visit to the building reveals old, torn carpeting mended with duct tape, malfunctioning toilets, lights that no longer work and general shabbiness throughout.
About two years ago, a group of folks interested in the school’s problems visited a very similar old school in Massachusetts that had been turned into a self-supporting arts center. After their trip, the group presented their findings to the city council, and it was decided that Auburn should follow their example with the former Great Falls School building.
They gave the project five years to become self-supporting. The present council seems not to adhere to the resolutions of the previous group, which is pretty typical of politics.
Decisions need to be backed up with action, rather than just sitting back and hoping things turn out well. Auburn has done nothing to develop an arts center. Few citizens know of the building’s purported function because there is no advertising aimed at artsy folk or to inform the public of what goes on there.
Currently, the former school building houses Community Little Theater, the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Center, two flourishing dance centers, an artist’s studio, another artist’s cooperative studio, an exercise class, pottery studio/class, yoga class, a graphic artist’s studio, a shop offering dance clothing and the Share Center.
There is room for another half-dozen or more similar enterprise in the school. The location is handy and rents are reasonable. But whoever is in charge seems to be distracted from filling up the building with tenants and reducing the monetary outlay from taxpayers.
The decision has now been made to invest $1.5 million in tearing down the building in the hope that someone will want to buy the land and erect another building for business. It seems likely that the council will sell the property for less than market price and give tax breaks to the new owner, given past performances of the city council.
If Auburn can’t afford to run the building as it is, where is the money to be found for the demolition? Even small-time politicians can’t be trusted to do what they say they’ll do after they are elected unless it’s part of their own personal agenda.
Council members apparently view their duties to the city as experimental mystery tours with other people’s money.