KENNEBUNK, Maine — The RSU 21 Facilities Committee learned last week that it will have to grapple with changes to proposed renovations for Mildred L. Day School and Kennebunkport Consolidated School that have increased their price tags to nearly $10 million each.
During a June 14 meeting, members of the Facilities Committee heard an update on renovation plans for the two schools as well as Kennebunk High School. While cost estimates are still preliminary, the newest figures presented to the committee during the meeting show a $76 million price tag for all three projects.
The newest proposal for Mildred L. Day School, estimated at $10.6 million — a jump from the $4 million originally proposed — came after the project was revamped following a study that revealed that a wing of the building known to have settled since construction is continuing to sink. While the cost for improvements to Consolidated School was previously estimated at $4.2 million, members of the school’s building committee said Friday that the plan has been updated to better meet the needs of the school community, raising the cost to $9.6 million.
It was an at times tense meeting as those present — members of the Facilities Committee, members of the building committees for each of the three schools who put together the most recent plans, and residents — at points seemed at odds.
“I’m not going to support this overall program. The price tag will be outrageous,” said Kennebunk resident Tom Couming. “In reality, people are really at the brink of paying for these facilities.”
Couming’s wife, Mary, told members of the committee to “put the voter’s hat on” as they move forward.
“Think about the endpoint, which is to get the voters of three towns to approve an overall plan,” she said. “Not just what does Arundel need, what does Kennebunk need, what does Kennebunkport need, but how are you going to sell this to the voters of all three towns?”
Chairman Tim Hussey said Friday’s meeting was a chance to listen to members of the building committees for each of the three schools, and an opportunity to raise questions and identify additional work that may need to be done. The Facilities Committee will now meet July 2 and July 19 to further discuss the plans.
Kennebunkport Consolidated School
The anticipated price tag for Consolidated began at $9.6 million, was reduced to $4.2 million under a plan by the Facilities Committee, and has now increased back to the $9.6 million after a review of the school building committee and members of the community, said Consolidated School Building Committee Chair Norm Archer.
“It was clear that the needs and desires, together, came up with this plan which once we saw it, I think everyone agreed that we couldn’t think of anything else we would do with that space,” Archer said. “I know that the dollar amount may be more than what this committee originally anticipated, but to look at this and where we are today, it seems it would be difficult to come up with any other alternative.”
Plans include renovating 25,056 square feet of the existing facility, with 21,708 square feet of new space, including a new gym, stage area, a more accessible cafeteria and library. Under the plans, the playground would be moved to the front of the facility and a bus loop would separate buses from pick-up and drop-off traffic.
Hussey said the Facilities Committee and the RSU 21 Board of Directors will have to “wrestle” with “what’s prudent and what the voters will support.”
“I think they have really hashed this through fairly well. These are things we felt necessary to continue the programming we are doing but in a better space,” said Maureen King, a member of the RSU 21 Board of Directors who attended the Consolidated Building Committee meetings. “We had a lot of good participation from community members and their input was that they could support this. I really think they’ve put a lot of effort and time into this and really paired it down. They really said these are the things that are necessary.”
“Which is $5 million more than this committee said was necessary,” Hussey said in response.
Kennebunkport Town Manager Larry Mead asked the committee to set aside the cost and to look at the plans for the two elementary schools in the same way Kennebunk High School has been reviewed.
“You have an antiquated facility that really doesn’t work well for its educational purpose and really doesn’t speak well to this community’s interest in educating our students at various levels,” he said. “This facility needs to work for years to come and it should not be a poor stepchild to other facilities in the system. I know it’s a tough sell and these prices in total are going to shock the community. We’ve got to take a stab at it and sell what we need to sell.”
Principal Dave Crandall said the plan fits the needs of the entire Kennebunkport community, with an eye towards how the building can be used not just until the end of the school day, but into the evening.
“We’ll probably only ever get one shot at this, so we started with what we would like. We ended up with what we need. We feel like this fits our community,” he said. “We looked at every space and we tried to be minimalists. We thought about the community and how we use the space.”
Mildred L. Day School
Learning that a portion of the Mildred L. Day School has sunk well over 1 foot and isn’t likely to stop sinking anytime soon was “an absolute game changer,” said Principal Kevin Crowley, noting that increased the potential cost to renovate the facility from $4 million to $10.6 million.
“There are no bells and whistles, nothing more than we are already doing,” Crowley said.
Under the proposal, 29,386 square feet of the existing building is proposed to be demolished; 13,462 square feet of the existing facility would remain; and 37,235 square feet would be built new. The new facility would be approximately 8,000 square feet larger than the current structure, including a new full-size gym and larger library.
“Tearing down 70 percent of the building is a tough thing to swallow,” Hussey said, asking how convinced architects are that the existing facility is not structurally adequate for future needs.
Dan Cecil, of Harriman Architects, said for 34 years the building was sinking a half an inch per year, and it could continue sinking with no end in sight. Painting a picture, Crowley added that if a ball is placed at one end of the gymnasium, it will roll down to the other side, showing an area where the structure has sunk.
“The clay in that area is full of moisture and the building is heavy and continuing to squeeze moisture out. There is apparently no end in sight,” Cecil said. “There’s nothing to think that the settling is ever going to stop. Then the question is what’s the value of putting any money into a building that is structurally going to deteriorate. It’s a really hard pill for everybody to swallow. It was an unexpected result for all of us, but it’s a reality that you have to face, we believe.”
During its upcoming meeting, the Facilities Committee will examine whether the best option is putting $20 million into Consolidated and Mildred L. Day School, or possibly building a new facility located on the Kennebunkport and Arundel line.
“I think that is the subject of our next meeting. Putting $20 million into two bad buildings, is it the right thing to do?” Hussey asked. “I think there’s several options that this committee should at least consider before we go to the board. Our job is to really look at all the options before we go to the board and to the voters.”
Kennebunk High School
Members of the KHS Building Committee presented two plans Friday, neither containing a previously discussed six-lane diving pool. Doug Stockbridge, chair of the High School Building Committee, said the pool is no longer a part of the high school project.
Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said the pool will not be a part of the projects proposed for the three schools, but added that’s not to say that another group can’t come forward with a plan for a community pool in the future. The pool was proposed to be supported through fundraising and Dolloff said there did not appear to be an immediate response to fundraising requests.
The two plans, which will be decided by the building committee, vary by 47 square feet, each with the same site plan. While in one option the facility would be connected as a circular building, in the other option, there would be an open space where two ends of the building would be unconnected.
The plans include changes to the outdoor athletic facilities to include an eight-lane track, a turf football field with a 2,000-seat stadium and concession stands, six tennis courts, and baseball and softball fields.
The plans do include the Southern Maine Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, proposed to be privately funded. The cost for the performing arts center has been said to be in the $20 million range, with $10 million included in the high school cost estimate and the rest to be privately funded.
A final cost for the KHS options has not yet been determined, but is estimated at $45.8 million. The KHS Building Committee is hoping to finalize cost projections for its July 11 meeting, then make a recommendation to the committee on which option to move forward with.
“We’re anxious to get the final numbers and recommendations,” Hussey said. “It affects all these projects together and what we can put forward to voters and whether we can handle the scope.”