Brunswick eyes 2014 vote on new elementary school

Posted July 25, 2013, at 11:56 a.m.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — A borrowing proposal for a new elementary school could go to referendum next year if the Brunswick School Board follows a new recommendation.

The board Wednesday discussed the steps necessary to schedule a November 2014 bond referendum, as recommended by PDT Architects.

The board also approved the hiring of former Leavitt Area High School Athletic Director Jeff Ramich as the school department’s new athletic director, and former teacher and administrator John Paige as a part-time curriculum coordinator.

The recommendation for a bond referendum is part of a new timeline from PDT that would cost an additional $66,000 for the firm’s services.

The board is expected to pay the firm with extra revenue from the recently passed state biennial budget, but its use will require a special voter referendum scheduled for Aug. 20.

The board unanimously voted to use the funds in such a way, including the use of another nearly $443,000 in extra revenue to pay for newly mandated state teacher retirement costs.

Following a school facilities study that began last year, the board decided in late June to explore the idea of constructing a new elementary school and delaying renovation work at Brunswick Junior High School.

The decision followed the revelation that combined renovation work for the aging facilities at the junior high school and Coffin Elementary School would cost the town $38 million and could cause up to a 10 percent tax hike within a year.

Board members agreed that construction of a new elementary school, though estimated to cost about $4 million more than renovation at Coffin, would be a more worthwhile endeavor because the new building would last longer.

The board also agreed that work on a new elementary school was more urgent than renovation work at the junior high school because the Coffin building is older and students are still using mobile classrooms and offices that are decades old.

A preliminary estimate shows a new elementary school with a 660-student capacity would cost around $22 million, although a more complete estimate is expected to be presented in September.

Renovation work at Coffin was also estimated to cost about $22 million.

PDT is expected to conduct test work at the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School to see whether the land would be viable for new school construction. The firm will also conduct a search of other possible sites.

The plans for a new elementary school might not require the board to move the School Department bus garage, which could have cost the town around $2.5 million depending on the location.

The results of PDT’s work is expected to be presented at a community meeting sometime in September. The final concept design work of a new school would then be completed by January 2014.

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