BANGOR, Maine — The local school system has proposed more than $10 million in security upgrades and repairs to facilities and playing fields that officials hope to get done over the next five years.
In total, administrators have identified more than 150 different repairs and improvements to 12 school facilities and a playing field in the Bangor School Department’s 2017 to 2022 five-year capital improvement plan. But with $429,300 marked for capital projects in the department’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget and no grant funding guarantees, it is unlikely all those repairs will be completed over the next five years.
“Continued investment into the existing Bangor School Department facilities is important to keep schools well maintained and safe,” Superintendent Betsy Webb said in an email. “The schools range from 44 to 98 years old and, although well maintained, require continual repairs and/or renovations similar to older homes.”
The five-year plan includes $880,000 in security-related improvements such as new security cameras and renovations of front entrances at several schools. It also calls for expensive repairs at Bangor High School, including a pair of $750,000 projects to replace corroded copper heat lines and ungrounded and corroded electrical conduits buried under cement floors and a $500,000 project to replace asbestos floor tiles in three building wings.
Webb said the schools are safe despite the budgeted security upgrades, none of which has been deemed a top priority that will be tackled first. She said several buildings have main offices not directly next to the front entrance, which raises some security concerns.
“We have done many types of projects over the years to make sure that our facilities are safe,” Webb said. “We have already done the most important security measures and the additional ones are to continually upgrade.”
And despite the needed costly repairs, none currently presents a safety hazard to students or teachers that would force any school to shut down, she said. Instead, the district is trying to be proactive and make needed repairs before they pose a larger, more expensive problem down the road, the superintendent said.
The five-year capital improvement plan, which was created by school administrators and the Old Town-based engineering firm Carpenter Associates, identifies 155 projects the district wants to complete through 2022, according to Webb. An updated plan is approved annually during the school budget process, though some projects don’t get completed and get bumped to a subsequent year.
The proposed budget for the fiscal year that starts on July 1, 2017, is before the school committee. It calls for $429,300 in minor capital projects, representing a nearly 16 percent increase from the current school year budget. The Bangor school system also applied for nearly $1.7 million in grants and loans from the Maine Department of Education’s School Revolving Renovation Fund, which, if approved, would cover the cost of five projects identified in the plan, including main entrance renovations at the high school and at Fairmount School, Webb said.
The renovation fund monies also would address water pressure issues and replace wood paneling in the main hallway at Fairmount School and replace some of the water and electrical conduit lines buried in the cement floor at Bangor High School, Webb said. But the school district did not receive any money during the latest renovation fund cycle in January. Barring a boost in state education funding, Department of Education officials do not anticipate another round of funding until at least 2018, said Ann Pinnette, the department’s division coordinator for the School Revolving Renovation Fund.
Webb said she was not aware of any other potential grants that could help cover the cost of any other projects. She said the school department may ask the school committee for an extra $1 million in capital repairs later in the year.
School officials created the plan by reviewing prior engineering reports, a Department of Education facilities database, and potential needs identified by staff at each facility, Webb said. Projects in the plan were given priority statuses, with priority 1 being projects the school district would try to complete first and priority 5 being last. There are $1,336,000 priority 1 projects listed; $1,553,000 priority 2; $4,980,000 priority 3; $1,025,000 priority 4; and $1,280,000 priority 5 projects.
The project costs identified in the plan are estimates, and still need to be engineered and put out to bid, so they actually could be more or less expensive, she said.