SALEM — Only days after closing on the sale of the former Mary Foss School, the town is still footing the bill for the dilapidated building.
Town Manager Keith Hickey said the building, auctioned Oct.17, was recently vandalized and its valuable copper piping stripped. Hickey notified selectmen at their meeting Monday night after the vandalism was discovered by the new owner that morning.
The town and owner Elias Kanj had just closed on the sale of the 89-year-old white clapboard building on Friday.
Kanj, who purchased the Lawrence Road property for $309,000, has not revealed his plans for the building, Hickey said. Kanj could not be reached for comment.
Hickey said the back door was kicked in and the copper piping to the furnace stolen. Police throughout Southern New Hampshire have reported an increase in copper thefts in recent years. The stolen pipe is sold, the money often used to buy drugs, according to police.
Although there was no other vandalism, Hickey said the furnace is inoperable.
“They can’t heat the building without replacing the piping,” he said.
The heat has been turned off in the building and water pipes drained ever since the building was shuttered late last winter so there was no danger of the pipes bursting, he said.
Hickey said although it’s not known when the theft occurred, it was likely after the auction and before the closing.
He said he believed it was the town’s responsibility to have its insurance company pay the damage and replacement costs. Selectmen did not dispute his assessment.
The town manager said a cost estimate has yet to be calculated. The incident was reported to police.
The town will be paying another bill for a building Hickey and selectmen decided to sell because it was becoming to costly to maintain. Voters approved the prospective sale in March.