Using oratory, not roar, the Gorham Lions Club saved its den Tuesday, while the Town Council took steps toward selling some other town-owned properties.
The Lions Club has been headquartered in the old Elmwood School, 414 South St., it has leased for a token amount from the town for decades.This week, the Town Council’s agenda included an item to consider selling the school. But several club members, some clad in Lions garb, persuaded the Town Council in its Tuesday meeting to keep it.
Tom Bahun of the Lions Club said it uses the building for regular meetings in addition to storage of its files and signs for car shows and road races the club sponsors.
“We consider the Elmwood School our home,” Bahun said.
Bahun, in a letter to Town Councilor Michael Phinney on Feb. 18, wrote that in the winter the Lions meet at the Gorham Public Works garage. But, Bahun hoped the town would allow its continued use of the old school.
So in Tuesday’s meeting, the Town Council took no action to sell the former one-room school that is well over a century old.
“The building won’t be sold,” Town Council Chairman Matthew Robinson said.
The council even unanimously agreed 7-0 to spend $2,500 for replacing the building’s electric panel that Town Manager David Cole said is outdated. Cole said the old school, which sits on a half-acre lot, closed in 1959.
Ashley Pike, a 53-year member of the Lions Club and a past president, said the club has occupied the old school 36 years. Pike pointed out some of the ongoing services the club provides in the community, like its scholarships and eyeglasses program benefitting citizens.
A life-long resident, Jim Burnham, said his father was a charter member of Gorham Lions, which was established in 1954.
“We’re trying to do all we can for the town,” Burnham said.
As examples of its communiuty service, the Lions, Burnham said, repaired the floor in the Robie Gym and saved historic land on Fort Hill from being developed. The club posts the U.S. flags that are annually installed on utility poles along Gorham streets.
Town Councilor Ronald Shepard thanked the Lions for what members do in the community and Robinson, a former Lions member, agreed.
“I think they’ve done a good job,” Robinson said.
Burnham said the Lions had placed vinyl siding on the old school, installed a new furnace and a well. The town paid to have the roof replaced in 2011. But, the club had once re-shingled it themselves.
“We’re old guys,” Burnham said. “We can’t get on the roof anymore.”
The Lions Club has kept the school’s interior intact through the years.
“I hope you can save it for us,” Burnham said.
Cole said the town doesn’t budget maintenance funds for the old school. The club needed help with a new electric panel and Town Councilor Bruce Roullard said the code violation should be remedied.
“I wouldn’t be in favor of selling it,” Roullard said.
The Town Council did favor selling some other properties. It agreed 7-0 to authorize Cole to enter an agreement with Paul Willis, a real estate broker, to list 77 South St. for $75,000. The building, which the town has leased to Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, needs extensive repairs.
It’s known as the McLellan/Sampson house and was built about 1803. It’s adjacent to Gorham Municipal Center and in the South Street Historic District. The town wants the property restored.
The Town Council also voted 7-0 Tuesday to obtain a sales study for town-owned property off Canal Street. Cole said it’s landlocked and the town acquired it through tax liens.
Last month, the Town Council approved listing its vacant house at 10 Preble St. with broker Peter Mason for $115,000. The Town Council approved purchasing the property in 2012 for $239,900 with an eye on creating parking downtown. While the house is for sale, the town is retaining the back portion of the property behind Robie Gym.
The Town Council in executive session, which means behind closed door, discussed disposition of 10 Preble St.
Mason said Wednesday that multiple offers have been received but the town has not accepted an offer.
“It’s still for sale,” Mason said.
In other action, the Town Council accepted the resignation of Damon Houk from the town’s Conservation Commission. Houk told the American Journal this week that he started a new job last year and resigned because he has had a “hard time committing to the committee.”
But added he would continue to be available, if other volunteers were not found.
“I’d like to thank Damon for his service,” Robinson said.
The Town Council will discuss school funding in a workshop with Gorham’s legislative delegation at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, in Gorham Municipal Center, 75 South St.