July 13, 2020

Lamoine residents offer ideas on school needs

LAMOINE – Residents on Thursday had a chance to weigh in on their priorities for making improvements to the elementary school building.

And although school officials will take time to formally catalog their responses, it appeared that correcting pupil safety issues and eliminating the two existing portable classrooms at the school were high on that list.

The school committee and a school building committee have been working since 1971 to develop a plan to address building and program needs.

Although officials said Thursday that the building is essentially structurally sound, they presented residents with a long list of items that need to be addressed.

Earlier this year, the town qualified for state funding to deal with some of the major infrastructure needs – roof renovation, heating and ventilation system, including a new boiler, replacing the electrical system and improving the water supply, improving plumbing and replacing the septic system. State funding would provide a total of $652,300, according to David Bridgham, business manager for School Union 92.

The state would immediately forgive 30 percent of those funds, or $195,690. The remaining $456,610 would come as an interest-free loan that would be paid back over 10 years.

Residents will have to decide whether to accept the state funds on those terms. That referendum vote will probably be scheduled in December or early January.

According to School Committee Chairwoman Faith Perkins, voters are likely to be asked at the same time to approve additional funding to address other issues that residents deem necessary. The scope of the additional project, she said, will depend on comments from residents.

Meeting in small groups in the school gymnasium, residents raised concerns and offered suggestions about the developing plan. Key among those concerns was the costs.

One woman questioned why, with enrollments declining, the town was considering spending what could be a large amount of money on a shrinking number of pupils. Several asked whether the town had considered consolidation with other towns.

Others questioned what will happen if the state forces the town to consolidate.

“Are we going to create a white elephant here that is going to be gobbled up by consolidation in the future?” asked one man.

Residents also expressed concern that there were no cost estimates attached to any of the priority items presented by the school committee. Bridgham explained that until it was clear what projects would be done, it was difficult to put a price tag on them.

“When you put together a shopping list like this, the prices change depending on what else you do,” he said.

Although there was some sentiment for making improvements to the gymnasium in order to make it more usable by both the school and the community, reports from the small groups showed a preference for dealing with safety issues such as the parking and student drop-off areas and the playgrounds. They also wanted to move all pupils into one building and eliminate the portable classrooms.

A community effort has been raising funds for a new gymnasium as a memorial to Lamoine pupil Jina Haslam, who was killed in an accident in 2005.

“There’s a lot of momentum in town because we’ve been raising funds for the gym for a year,” Perkins said. “We’re not necessarily going to do everything on the list. That’s why we need this kind of input.”

The school and building committees plan to evaluate the reports from the small groups and present a priority list from those comments at a meeting early in November.

Representatives from Oak Point Associates, a Biddeford architectural firm, were on hand Thursday to hear residents’ comments, and could have a preliminary proposal based on those comments ready for that meeting.

Comments can be sent to the building committee, 53 Lamoine Beach Road, Lamoine 04605, or to the town’s e-mail address: town@lamoine-me.gov.

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