2014-08-08 / Front Page

Board approves revised renovation plan

Plan is to send the school project to a November vote
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — After months of tedious reconfiguring by each of the three building committees, the Regional School Unit 21 board of directors approved the three-part $58.6 million renovation concept.

Each of the three renovation concepts was forwarded to the board by the Facilities Committee, which approved the total cost in late July. The aim is to present the plans to the voters in the November election.

The initial renovation plan, totaling an estimated $75 million, was voted down by all three towns in January. Since then, building committees have sheared somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of each plan to reach their new, reduced total.

The plan proposed by the Mildred L. Day Building Committee at the Aug. 4 meeting will cost an estimated $9 million, which is a 21 percent ($2.3 million) reduction.

The Kennebunkport Consolidated School Building Committee proposed an estimated $6 million renovation plan on Monday — a 40 percent, or $4 million, reduction from the January referendum.

Members of the Kennebunk High School Building Committee proposed a $43.6 million plan at Monday’s meeting — an 18.4-percent, or nearly $10 million reduction from January.

Jason Gallant, chairman of the Kennebunk High School Building Committee, told the board the proposed plan “best meets the goals” of the district.

Kevin Crowley, chairman of the Mildred L. Day Building Committee, told the board that the school’s plan was “energy efficient and cost effective.”

Notably, the committee could not, with a budget of $9 million, make all of the changes or improvements necessary. For example, the art and music modular classrooms will remain outside.

“It’s not ideal to have them outside, it’s just impossible at $9 million to accomplish everything we want to accomplish,” Crowley said.

Amy Johnson, chairman of the Consolidated committee, said their plan included “needs, not wants,” and that they, too, discerned which sacrifices to make. Regardless, Johnson said, “As a board member and as a citizen of Kennebunkport, this is a building I could be proud of.” In recent weeks, it became clear and controversial that the total estimated cost of the three projects had surpassed $55 million – a mostly arbitrary number proposed by board member Frank Drigotas and approved by the board as a guidepost in February after the referendum was voted down.

Drigotas addressed the figure on Monday night.

“My goal was for the building committees to give very thoughtful consideration and make a decision on need rather than want,” Drigotas said.

He acknowledged the separate contingencies of people – some will always vote yes on a school board matter, and some will always vote no because they believe the district spends too much, Drigotas said.

“I think this is a very reasonable plan,” he said.

Before the vote, newly elected board member Lionel Menard said, “Just in case I was not clear, I think $58.6 is too high.”

The measure passed 9-2, with Menard and Jeff Cole dissenting.

Gallant, of the high school building committee, proposed that a $2.5 million add/alternative track and athletic field be included as a separate question on the ballot, in addition to the $58.6 million renovation question.

The high school committee proposed that Veterans Memorial Field be enhanced with a new six-lane track large enough to fit a turf field in the middle, which would accommodate a variety of sports, including soccer, lacrosse and football.

The proposal also called for new stadium lighting and new fencing around the complex.

The board voted down the proposal 9-2, which, had it passed, would have brought the estimated total project cost above $60 million.

Most board members agreed that the addition would be a worthwhile investment, but ultimately, most were concerned about asking too much of the voters.

“I’m afraid it’ll distract from the actual goal of getting the buildings passed,” said board member Susan Sinnott Curran.

“What’s important, foremost, is educating our children. I would love to see all this. If I win Powerball, I’m going to do it and name it the Jeff Cole Memorial Field,” Drigotas joked. “I don’t see why this can’t be revisited down the road. First things first.”

Finally, the board voted to delegate to Superintendent Crowley the role of forming an interview team for the hiring of a construction manager.

Crowley will work with members of the team and Dan Cecil of Harriman Architects + Engineers to vet candidates in the upcoming weeks.

Cecil reminded the board and the public that the construction manager, once hired, will act as a third party, scrutinizing all three projects in detail, confirming the district’s cost estimate, providing a guaranteed maximum price and completing a construction phasing plan, among other things.

The construction manager is expected to have this information for the district by Sept. 11.

Detailed plans of each renovation project can be found at www.rsu21.net.

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