2013-12-13 / Front Page

On-site school visits continue

By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — The Regional School Unit 21 school board hosted its second on-site public hearing preceding a regular meeting last Monday, Dec. 2 at Mildred L. Day School in Arundel.

Mildred L. Day is one of three schools in RSU 21 that will undergo significant renovations if voters pass the Jan. 21 referendum measure. In addition to Mildred L. Day School, the measure would permit the renovation of Kennebunk High School and Kennebunkport Consolidated School at a cost of $75 million.The third and last on-site meeting will take place Monday, Dec. 16 at Consolidated School.

Superintendent Andrew Dolloff narrated a presentation of each of the three schools before providing residents the opportunity to comment. Most residents who approached the microphone to comment echoed opinions from expressed in past meetings.

“We cannot keep mending the little problems that keep occurring. Let’s do this now; let’s stop putting a Band-Aid on this project,” said Kirsten Camp, the mother of two students who attend Mildred L. Day School. “The school is the foundation of our community, and it is important to us parents that this vote go through. The school is a staple of our community, especially here in Arundel,” Camp said. “As wonderful as our teachers are, and as wonderful as our students are, this building houses their education and we need to put this building first and foremost and get this building project underway. This school is not adequate for our children to be going to school here.”

“Both of these facilities (Mildred L. Day and Consolidated) are severely lacking in terms of insulation and heating efficiency,” Dolloff said. “And they have antiquated systems that don’t communicate with one another from one part of the building to the other because they were built at different times.”

If the referendum is approved and renovations completed, there would be a 12 percent decrease in operating costs persquarefootatConsolidatedanda6percentdecrease at Mildred L. Day School, due to efficiencies.

In reference to the current state of Kennebunk High School, Dolloff told residents, “There are things going on with the high school facility that really would surprise folks when all they see is the outside and it has that classic New England look to it.”

“But inside you have antiquated systems, you have no sprinkler system, your fire alarms don’t communicate from one end of the building to another, single pane windows throughout, many of them inoperable, ventilation heating systems that are inadequate, that are uneven,” Dolloff said. “Just today we had a classroom that was approaching 90 degrees and another classroom that had a pipe burst overnight because it got so cold in there.”

Also discussed was the amount of time the board will take to see if it can accrue an additional $20 million in private donations to fund the Southern Maine Center for Visual and Performing Arts. The high school-only version of a new arts building – $8 million of the total $54 million to fund Kennebunk High School’s renovation – will be on the ballot in January. Residents will vote on the larger regional center in a separate referendum vote only if adequate funds are donated.

Board member Tim Hussey anticipates the fundraising to begin in about a year. Once it begins, the fundraising is likely to take another 12 months, Hussey said.

“To see if those funds can be raised before we give the architect direction as to whether we’re going to build the school-only facility or the larger facility,” Hussey said.

“It’s in the district’s interest to let the fundraising go forward,” said principal architect Dan Cecil. “The plan right now, if all the money is raised, would save the RSU about $5 million toward the cost of the high school. In all my years I’ve never seen a private funding effort this great and ambitious and with such a benefit to the district if it happens,” Cecil said.

Arundel Selectman Dan Dubois approached the microphone and asked, “What steps has the board taken in order to offset those (bond-related costs) so that the taxes won’t go up even more?”

Dolloff explained that the board has decided to go with a 25-year bond to pay off the project. “Rather than creating higher annual payments, the board elected to stretch the bond over a longer term to lower the impact on current taxpayers,” Dolloff said.

The total impact per $100,000 of assessed property value to an Arundel taxpayer on the 20-yearbond plan, for example, would be $2,709.50. With a 25-bond-year plan the number increases by about $64, to $2,772.99. The total cost of the longer bond is about 2.3 percent higher than the 20-year bond; however, the peak cost for an Arundel resident, with the 25-year bond, is less than the peak cost with the 20-year bond; a differnce of about $36.

“The board opted to go with a 25-year repayment versus 20, which lowers the impact in each of those years, except that, as you all know from buying cars and homes, if you take out a larger mortgage or a larger bond or a larger loan, then you have a higher total repayment in the end,” Dolloff said.

The last public forum related to the renovation project will be held at Consolidated School on Monday, Dec. 16. Tours will be given at 6 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 7 p.m.

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