Stimulus bill leaves Region III with upgraded, energy-efficient tech school

Posted March 30, 2011, at 8:24 p.m.
Student Brian Shanahan, 17, of Springfield, works on a model roof in a carpentry class at Lincoln's Region III technical school on Wednesday. The $2.4 million addition to the school is just about finished.
Student Brian Shanahan, 17, of Springfield, works on a model roof in a carpentry class at Lincoln's Region III technical school on Wednesday. The $2.4 million addition to the school is just about finished.
Student Lindsay Wright, 16, of Lincoln, compiles mail as part of her health sciences class at Lincoln's Region III technical school on Wednesday.
Student Lindsay Wright, 16, of Lincoln, compiles mail as part of her health sciences class at Lincoln's Region III technical school on Wednesday.

LINCOLN, Maine — Thanks to the near-completion of a $2.3 million renovation and expansion of the Northern Penobscot Tech Region III school, Brian Shanahan no longer learns carpentry at a satellite building in Howland.

The 17-year-old Springfield resident likes the updated school, except for one thing.

The carpentry shop “is a lot smaller than our old shop,” Shanahan said Wednesday. “It’s a lot harder to work in the shop here than in Howland because there’s not a lot of room to do stuff.”

With the project about 95 percent complete, school officials are confident that the work done by Nichols Construction will finish within the company’s bid — and about $400,000 less than originally anticipated, Region III Director Al Dickey said.

Because federal guidelines prohibit the money’s return, Region III will get to have a better building with more features than originally designed, Dickey said — including a 40-by-60-foot cement deck expansion to the carpentry shop.

About $150,000 of the $400,000 savings remains to be spent, and school officials will meet next week to see how far the extra money can go. The extra items already paid for or built include:

• Two classrooms, one in the automotive arts area and the other in the welding area, with the latter room renovated and expanded.

• New insulation added to the welding area, including new windows and exterior siding, and about 20 additional paved parking lot spaces.

• Two more computerized interactive white boards and new flooring in half the building, which replaced old carpeting.

Construction started in early 2010. The work included a two-story, 12,000-square-foot addition to the 87-year-old school. Two 35-year-old steel buildings in Howland and Lee were closed, with those students and staff moving into two new shop areas and five classrooms.

The effort also gave the school energy-efficient windows, LED lighting and R-50 insulation, creating savings of $22,000 annually in heating oil and $15,000 in electricity, officials have said.

The project leaves the region with one consolidated, energy-efficient building and allowed Treeline Inc., a Lincoln trucking company, to buy the Lee building for $90,000 two weeks ago, Dickey said. Howland officials are considering buying the building there.

The job will cost Region III’s 28 northern Penobscot County towns a total of $19,281 annually for 15 years thanks to the federal stimulus bill, which supplied an interest-free $2.33 million bond. The towns’ residents approved the project in a special October 2009 referendum.

School staff and visitors seem to think the money well-spent.

“When we had an open house and our former students came in here, their first reaction was ‘Wow.’ The school is cleaner, brighter and a lot more welcoming and friendly,” said guidance counselor Sarah Hainer, who worked with designers to see that student needs were met by the new building.

“Essentially, this was a 1920s building that haunted us,” Dickey said. “Now it really does not look like that anymore.”

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