Cunningham Middle School walls to come tumbling down

Kathy McCarty, Special to The County
17 years ago

    PRESQUE ISLE, Maine – A structure that has withstood summer’s heat and winter’s cold, as well as hundreds of students, will soon be little more than a pile of rubble, following City Council’s bid approval for the demolition of Cunningham Middle School.
      During Council’s Feb. 5 session, it was unanimously agreed to award the bid for the demolition/removal of Cunningham Middle School, located at the intersection of Blake and Third streets in Presque Isle, to Soderberg Construction, Inc., of Caribou, for the bid amount of $163,000, allowing Alternate #1 using city-provided backfill materials for a reduction in the base bid amount by $20,000, and a bid per cubic yard for removal/disposal of soils contaminated with fuel oil and replaced with bulk run gravel at a cost of $50 per yard.
“The building has served its lifespan,” said City Manager Tom Stevens. “Things change. We tried for over a year to find someone willing to work with the existing building. But the structure had a number of issues that needed to be addressed to meet certain codes – certain standards. No one was interested in the property as it was. That’s why we decided our only choice was to remove the building and market the property from there.”
Built in 1922, the school served as both a high school and, later, as a middle school. Generations of students attended classes, most recently in grades 6 through 8. When the cost of repair proved to be more expensive than adding on to another SAD 1 facility, it was decided to discontinue use of the building for educational purposes. With the completion of the work at Skyway Middle School and the creation of the ‘new’ Presque Isle Middle School, it was voted by the School Board to turn the property over to the city. That was approximately two years ago.
Since that time, city officials have made numerous attempts to market the building and even considered it for possible use by city departments, including the Recreation Department. But to make it suitable for various uses proved to be cost prohibitive.
Plans are for demolition to begin within the next few weeks.
“Work should begin by the end of the month or the first week of March,” said Stevens. “It takes time to do the paperwork and there are some items that have to be removed from the building, then crews have to put up barricades. Once that’s done, the process can begin to demolish the building.”
The funds for the project will be taken from the Presque Isle Development Fund Loan Program at a no-interest loan to be repaid from taxes received on the parcel once it is redeveloped.
Other bidders included: McGillan, Inc., of Fort Fairfield, with a base bid of $385,000; Langille Construction, Inc., of Washburn, with a bid of $255,000; S F Burtt & Son, Inc., of Mars Hill, for a bid of $434,750; Lane Development LLC, of Glenburn, with a bid of $200,960; and Alan Trombley Construction,  of Presque Isle, for a bid of $189,000.