HAMPDEN, Maine — Officials in SAD 22 are gearing up to break ground on the most expensive school project approved to date by the state Department of Education.
Rick Lyons, superintendent for SAD 22 — made up of Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport — said it’s hard to believe that after nearly 15 years of planning, the new $51.6 million school is shovel-ready.
“It kind of struck me a little this week,” he said.
A ceremony has been planned for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the site of the new Hampden Academy, which will be adjacent to Hampden’s existing middle and elementary schools off Route 1A. Among those scheduled to speak are state Education Commissioner Susan Gendron, state Transportation Commissioner David Cole and former SAD 22 Superintendent John Skehan.
“All are welcome to attend,” Lyons said. “We’re excited about this project.”
Last September, voters from Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport passed a referendum to move forward with a new school. The project includes $45.4 million in funding that will be paid for by the state and $6.2 million that will be paid for by taxpayers in the three towns. Early estimates indicate that the increase in local taxes will be $70 per $100,000 of property valuation for residents of the three SAD 22 towns, although that number would go down slightly each year of the 30-year bond.
The local share would fund elements of the project that the state would not fully fund, including:
ä A 900-seat performing arts center that could support the entire student body and faculty, estimated to cost $2.6 million.
ä Expanded science classrooms and laboratories that meet national standards, estimated at $1 million.
ä A gymnasium and wellness center with the same capacity as the existing Skehan Center, projected to cost $1.7 million.
ä An efficient alternative energy system that could include a geothermal component that would cost about $785,000 more than the state would allow.
The first phase of the project will include securing and enclosing the site with a temporary fence, clearing the land and installing underground utilities. The second phase will go out to bid later in the year, and construction is scheduled to begin early in 2010.
SAD 22 officials had to work hard to ensure that the project stayed on schedule. Shortly after the September 2008 vote, the state Department of Education announced that it would suspend funding for all new projects for one year, mostly in response to the national economic crisis. SAD 22 didn’t want to wait a year, so it secured $2.2 million in funding from a local lender for site work and design, which will be sent out to bid in the summer, only slightly behind schedule. The state even agreed to pay approximately $125,000 in interest for that loan.
The new Hampden Academy is expected to be open by December 2011, officials project.
Lyons also said a committee has been meeting for several months to outline possible reuses of the existing Hampden Academy. Recommendations from those meetings could go to the SAD 22 board of directors later this year.