HAMPDEN, Maine — No bricks have been laid, no foundation poured, but those involved with the construction of a new Hampden Academy can’t contain their excitement.
In the last several weeks, site work and preparation have been progressing feverishly at the site between Route 1A and Route 202, and representatives for SAD 22 are pleased with what they have seen.
“We received so much valuable input over the course of many months about what people want this place to be,” said Mike Pullen of WBRC Architects and Engineers, the principal in charge of the new $51.6 million school project. “All those discussions paid off. This is going to be a wonderful facility and a special school.”
In the last few weeks, crews from Sargent Corp., the company in charge of the initial phase, have cleared trees, laid down gravel for an access road and parking area and are beginning utility work.
“We’ve had a lot of traffic going in and out of there, but we’ve been in constant contact with neighbors and the community. Everything has gone smooth,” said Mike Light of Sargent Corp.
The activity around the site has generated a buzz among those who have been working on this project for more than a decade. SAD 22 Rick Lyons said a new Hampden Academy, which will be the most expensive school project in state history, is long overdue, not just for the school department but for the community.
Voters from Hampden, Newburgh and Winterport — the three towns that make up SAD 22 — passed a referendum to move forward with a new school. The project includes $45.4 million in funding from the state Department of Education and $6.2 million that will be paid for by taxpayers in the three towns.
The local share funds 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 site preparation is expected to be completed soon and the next phase, the construction, will go out to bid early next year. Lyons and others hope the project might generate low bids because general contractors desperately want the work.
Ray Bolduc, a civil engineer with WBRC Architects and Engineers, said other school projects have come in 15 to 20 percent below estimates.
The new school is slated to open just before the start of the 2012 school season.