Plan to renovate Brunswick schools comes in at more than $38 million

Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects led School Board members, school administrators and parents through Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School Wednesday night to demonstrate why he's recommending a $38 million upgrade.
Dylan Martin | The Forecaster
Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects led School Board members, school administrators and parents through Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School Wednesday night to demonstrate why he's recommending a $38 million upgrade.
Posted March 09, 2013, at 7:36 a.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — When he said “sticker shock,” he meant it.

The principal architect for planned renovations at two schools recommended a $38.3 million plan at the School Board’s special facilities meeting Wednesday night.

The figure for major renovations of Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School is far more than the $21 million rough estimate made by another architecture firm earlier in the planning process.

Some School Board members said they suspected the outcome after recent meetings, especially after Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects told them to prepare for “sticker shock.”

Even the costs for “light touch” repairs and expansion of both schools is estimated to cost the town nearly $30 million.

Keck said the figures presented Wednesday are subject to change, based on input by the School Board.

“We don’t think ‘light touch’ is viable,” Keck said Wednesday night, responding to a question on whether the “light touch” option’s plan to not have a full sprinkler plan would even be legal.

Keck said the major renovations would add an extra 25-30 years to both school buildings, an estimate that falls short of the 40-year-figure the architect mentioned earlier in the month.

“Our numbers don’t represent a major ‘gut and strip’ project, which would be more money than this,” Keck said. “What we’re attempting to do is to reuse components that are reusable.”

Expansion and renovation

Before Keck revealed the cost options at Wednesday night’s meeting, he guided the School Board, school administrators and parents through a tour of Coffin and the junior high school.

Keck said upgrading the space at both buildings to meet modern standards is one of the top priorities in both cost options. He said the plans for the junior high would create capacity for 600 students, with the school’s existing mobile units gone.

Keck said Coffin’s plans will also create additional capacity for pre-kindergarten students, move one grade of students from Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School back to Coffin and eliminate the school’s existing mobile units.

In addition to the need to expand, Keck said the two buildings also suffer from structural problems, most of them a result of age and antiquated design techniques. He said the buildings also need to be updated to meet modern security requirements.

Additional costs

Both plans include the estimated cost of a new bus garage at $2.5 million, based on the proposed 6 Industry Road location, which is currently the least expensive of three options. The site also faces opposition from a local neighborhood.

Keck said plans to expand Coffin and add a new playing field and service entrance at the back of the school created the need to remove the bus garage currently located in that area.

Based on a recent meeting with Midcoast Regional Development Authority, Keck said the town might be able to lease a building on Brunswick Landing, and it might be cheaper than building a new facility.

However, he said, the School Board would have to agree to further pursue negotiations with MRRA to see if “favorable terms” can be reached.

Both cost options also include the costs of updating Coffin ($872,000) and the junior high ($1.5 million) to modern energy codes – a measure being recommended by Keck.

Keck said he will look into the energy savings the school department could expect if it decides to add more insulation and install new windows into both buildings.

Shuttering ‘not imminent’

During a question-and-answer portion of the meeting, one parent asked if either school were at risk of being shuttered if no action is taken, as happened to Jordan Acres Elementary School in 2011.

“I don’t think it’s imminent,” Keck said. “… What happened to Jordan Acres is very unusual to have a building be shuttered that quickly, and usually it is because of either an air quality issue or structural failure, and you had the latter.”

After the meeting, School Board member Corinne Perreault said the board will have to do “a lot more homework”to figure out what’s neccesary and what’s affordable.

“It’s a bigger project than we ever imagined,” Perreault said.

Sarah Singer, a parent and a chief organizer of Brunswick Community United, said “every option should be on the table.”

“I think the work needs to be done,” Singer said, “so what we need to do is figure out is what’s the best possible outcome we can get from an education perspective … I don’t think there’s a cheap way out of having buildings that have reached the end of their lifelong expectancy.”

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