Insurance won't cover mold remediation at Stockton Springs Elementary

Mold developed because of insufficient air movement in the building
By Fran Gonzalez | Dec 07, 2018
Photo by: Fran Gonzalez Stockton Springs Elementary School, where a mold problem has developed since the school was closed in April 2017.

Stockton Springs — The insurance company representing Regional School Unit 20 has notified Superintendent Chris Downing that the claim submitted for mold damage at Stockton Spring Elementary School has been denied.

According to the Nov. 13 minutes for the RSU 20 School Board, the company found the damage was the result of condensation and humidity issues from "lack of normal air movement" in the building and, because of this, loss is "specifically excluded" by the policy terms and conditions.

The insurance company sent a field adjuster and an industrial hygienist earlier this year to investigate a mold problem discovered by RSU 20 Building, Grounds and Transportation Director Russ Flagg, Downing previously said.

Next spring — April 2019 — marks two years since the elementary school in Stockton Springs closed its doors to all activities. Voters approved shuttering the mostly unused building in April 2017, after a pre-K program there was relocated to Searsport Elementary School.

Costs for the mold remediation are not yet known. According to Downing, a request for quotes has gone out and responses are due back by Monday, Dec. 10. Downing also met with town managers from Searsport and Stockton Springs to keep them abreast of developments with the building. He said they expect to meet again after the holidays.

The RSU 20 board minutes also indicated there could be possible action taken by the board at its Jan. 8 meeting.

"We will work together on solutions," Superintendent Downing said in an email.

Stockton Springs Town Manager Courtney O'Donnell told selectmen during a workshop Dec. 6 that she and Searsport Town Manager James Gillway "had a good, productive conversation" with Downing about the school's future. There are many options being considered, she said, and a long process to follow if residents wish to purchase the building from the school district.

"At the end of the day, it's up to the citizens if they want to vote," O'Donnell said. " ... The district is interested in getting rid of that building."

O'Donnell said without knowing the full extent of the mold or remediation costs, it is difficult to say what might happen with the school. The library and classroom areas have the most mold, she said, adding those portions of the school could be demolished while the cafeteria and gymnasium are retained for community use. But, O'Donnell cautioned, demolition costs also are undetermined.

The school unit's biggest concern is that the town not make money by purchasing the school for a low amount and turning around and selling it to a private buyer, she said. Comparisons have been made to Frankfort, where that town's elementary school was purchased by the town for $1, then sold to a developer for an estimated $100,000, according to previously published reports. RSU 20 officials argue the school district should benefit rather than the town.

"Realistically, I don't think anyone will make a big profit off that building," O'Donnell said.

Should residents wish to move forward, there will be a series of public meetings. A vote is required to accept ownership of the school as well, possibly as soon as the next town meeting.

Republican Journal Editor Stephanie Grinnell contributed to this report.


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