SALEM — The town has completed the sale of the former Mary Foss School on Lawrence Road to developer EWRM LLC, but during the closing, town officials and the new owners noticed something missing from the school.
The copper piping in the school’s furnace room was stolen from the school sometime between the auction of the property in October and the beginning of this week, according to Town Manager Keith Hickey.
“Prior to the closing, we went back into the building one more time,” said Hickey. “When we opened the furnace room, we found the majority of the copper piping, which allows the furnace to heat the building, had been cut out and removed. They kicked in the lower panel of the rear door and used some kind of cutting tool to cut the pipe out of the furnace room.”
The police department is investigating the theft and working with the town and the new owners.
Hickey said the town will report the theft to its insurance company since it happened while the town still owned the building.
“We are working with the new owners to try to make them as whole as we can with the insurance claim,” said Hickey.
Hickey said the new owners have yet to reveal their plans for the Foss School. EWRM bid $309,000 for the building at the October auction.
The school was built in 1924 and until earlier this year was occupied by several community services organizations, including Greater Salem Caregivers, Rockingham Community Action and Servicelink. Last year, selectmen approved a plan allowing Greater Salem Caregivers to rent space within Salem Town Hall that was once used by the state’s department of motor vehicles.
The aging building had multiple issues that led to the town’s decision to auction it off, including a failing roof, and furnace and insulation issues, according to Hickey.
In addition to its use as a school and home for social service organizations, the 7,479-square-foot building also served as the town’s senior center until the Ingram Senior Center opened about a decade ago.