Cape Elizabeth weighs borrowing $1.75 million to replace school roofs, upgrade heating

Posted Nov. 14, 2013, at 10:43 a.m.

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The Cape Elizabeth School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the Town Council to borrow $1.75 million for school improvements in the 2015-2016 school year.

The board seeks a bond referendum in the first half of next year, which will give it time to prepare its 2015-2016 budget.

The bond would be used to replace the roofs of all three public schools, at an estimated cost of $1.15 million. Heating equipment for the middle school, also related to roofing, would cost roughly $325,000, and electrical systems for the high school would cost around $275,000.

A School Board presentation on the bonds Tuesday called the improvements “must haves” and stressed that the bond money would not be used for expansion projects or new construction.

The bond would cover roughly a third of the school department’s capital improvement projects over the next three years, Vice Chairman Michael Moore said. The other two-thirds would be funded by the department’s normal operating budget, using state revenue and local appropriations.

During Tuesday’s public comment period, resident Tom Dunham said he spoke this week with representatives from IRC Industrial Roofing Cos. in Lewiston and Portland-based architecture firm SMRT, who said replacing the high school’s roof was not necessary. Dunham said roof repairs, as opposed to replacement, could be a cheaper and equally effective alternative.

Resident William Gross suggested negligence on the part of contractors who installed the schools’ roofs, which are nearly 30 years old, and encouraged the board to look into lawsuits to offset the costs of new roofing.

“The problem with lawsuits is you don’t necessarily win them,” Councilor David Hillman replied. “And they take two to three years. If we need repairs now, we can’t very well fund them with money we might get in the future.”

Gross, who ran unsuccessfully this month for a School Board seat, also said $700,000 in annual school bonds would mature in 2016, and the board ought to forgo the new bond and pay for capital improvements using those savings.

“I’m not sure how he calculated that [figure],” Moore said after the meeting.

Moore acknowledged that some bonds issued in the 1990s would mature over the next few years, but said that doesn’t change the need for the new bond.

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