Bath-area voters approve borrowing $5.2 million for school renovations

Posted Nov. 06, 2013, at 11:32 a.m.

BATH, Maine — Regional School Unit 1 voters on Tuesday approved a $5.2 million bond, 2,342 to 923, to fund districtwide school improvements.

According to preliminary results, the bond passed 1,198 to 344 in Bath, 127-26 in Arrowsic, 367-88 in Phippsburg and 434-237 in Woolwich. It failed in West Bath, 228-216.

Meanwhile, with two seats up for election on the Regional School Unit 1 Board of Directors, only Alan Walton of Bath, who is completing his first term on the board, returned nomination papers by the deadline, and was uncontested for a second term as District 6 representative. He received 276 votes in Bath and 56 in Arrowsic.

No one ran in District 1, where Robin Buczkowski of Woolwich is finishing her first term.

District 1 covers parts of Bath and Woolwich.

Superintendent of Schools Patrick Manuel has called the school improvements necessary for improving building safety and preventing shutdowns.

About $3.5 million of the bond would pay for work at Morse High School, including windows ($290,000), science lab upgrades ($250,000), some ventilation system replacement ($1.2 million), upgrade of the building’s electrical distribution ($200,000), and replacement of steam supply and temperature controls ($900,000).

Another $833,000 would be spent at the elementary schools; $393,000 at Bath Middle School, and $139,000 at the Bath Regional Career and Technical Center. Securing of front entrances is proposed at all the schools.

No work is proposed at the new Woolwich Central School, while $294,000 would be set aside for contingencies.

The improvements at Morse are aimed toward maintaining the building until state funding is available for a new high school, hopefully within 10 years, Manuel has said, noting that Morse is 11th on the state funding list.

The work is needed “for the safety of the building for staff and students, as well as [to] prevent a catastrophic shutdown of the building,” according to the superintendent.

Morse’s windows have in some cases been falling in or are not correctly secured, and water has also been penetrating the gaps around those windows, Manuel has said.

Science lab upgrades are proposed because, in a recent accreditation, the only area where Morse was faulted was its facilities, particularly the science labs, according to Manuel.

The West Bath Board of Selectmen plans Nov. 13 to set a date for the town to vote on whether to begin the process of withdrawing from Regional School Unit 1. West Bath is suing RSU 1 to recover $1.9 million the town believes it overpaid in the first four years of the school district’s existence.

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