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Lease latest plan for 'Friends' at Ellsworth area schoolhouse

TOWN OF MARTELL--Plans for the Friends of the Martell School House to preserve the historic landmark are progressing, with a lease arrangement now the favored course.

"We'd prefer a 10-year lease," Deanie Pass of the group said Friday about a proposed arrangement with the town board.

A pass-through lease is envisioned, Tom Meyer of the group said. The Friends would then assume responsibility for paying insurance and electric costs.

Pass said representatives met with the board late last year and determined this option would be preferable to two others which had been identified: buying the property or involving the county's historical association. They intend to be at next month's board meeting to further address the matter.

"If we go that way, we'd have to negotiate the terms," Meyer said.

The schoolhouse would not only be available for family rentals, but for community events in the summer, Pass said. The area "Laughing Trout" organization would like to host fly-tying there on Saturdays during the fishing season, for example.

"We're known for the Rush River--a Class A trout stream," she said about an interest in taking advantage of that natural resource. Likewise, the adjacent Tyson Park, presently being turned over to the town by the county, would be a nearby attraction, she added, also indicating the schoolhouse would be an ideal site for a day camp.

The Martell Rushers 4-H Club is considering planting a garden there and selling vegetables from it, she said (the club has met there in the past). That project could evolve into a full-fledged farmers market. Funding may be sought through the Master Gardeners for outdoor landscaping. A "tool library" might be established indoors, with people donating tools to be checked out for use by others.

The Friends have received an anonymous donation of $1,000 to put toward building repairs, she said. The existing front porch would likely be removed and rebuilt, with the premises fixed up in the meantime. Painting could become a project for those needing to do community service.

"The schoolhouse is pretty much intact due to its never having been made into a house," she said, acknowledging the group has a price quote of under $700 to re-grade two sides of the structure, fix the gutters and add down spouts.

Pass also envisioned a future for it as a small museum. She'd like to see its setting restored to resemble what it was like when the school still operated (it later served as the town hall until recently). Anyone having items from it, such as desks, books and even playground equipment, willing to donate those back for display would be welcome, she said.

Read more in the print version of the Herald April 8.