SALEM — Town officials are evaluating the future of the former Mary Foss School building.
“We were just bouncing ideas,” said Pat Hargreaves, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “Nothing is etched in stone.”
The building on Lawrence Road houses the town’s Human Services Department, Greater Salem Caregivers, Rockingham County Servicelink and Rockingham Community Action.
Casual conversations about closing the Foss School building have taken place as budget season nears, Hargreaves said, but no decisions have been made. The town is considering all avenues to cost savings, he said.
The town spends about $25,000 annually on heat, electricity, and other items associated with the building, according to Town Manager Keith Hickey. The building was constructed in 1974 and needs capital improvements, including work on the roof, siding and heating system, Hickey said.
“Long term, unless we want to invest a significant amount of money to make the improvements it needs, I think there may be some other options,” Hickey said.
He has considered the possibility of using vacant space on the lower level of the 10th Circuit Court Building in Salem, Hickey said. He believes the relocation can be completed without hurting the synergy the agencies have developed while working together in the Foss School building, Hickey said.
Some of the organizations have expressed a desire to stay in the building and raise money to make the necessary improvements. No decisions have been made, Hickey said, but fundraising efforts would have to be long-term to address the building’s capital needs.
The discussions are taking place because it would be shortsighted not to explore all of the options available to the town, Hickey said.
Whatever the decision, he is not proposing to change existing agreements with the agencies, which do not pay rent for the space.
The town is always looking for more economical ways to provide services, which includes assessing the need for town buildings, Hickey said.
Dick O’Shaughnessy, executive director of Greater Salem Caregivers, said the town has a lot of difficult decisions to make. He spoke about the service his organization provides at the selectmen’s meeting on Monday evening.
“Everything has to be weighted and balanced and taken into consideration,” O’Shaughnessy said. “I’m just trying to put a balance to the decision.”
Hickey said he will make a recommendation on the Foss School building to the Board of Selectmen at some point in the future.
- - - - - - - -
Julie Hanson may be reached at Jhanson@newstote.com.