Bridgton selectmen unanimously support Crooked River project

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Agreeing the proposed Crooked River School addition/renovation project is both “solid and sustainable,” Bridgton selectmen voted 5–0 to endorse passage of the $8,975,000 plan at the March 19 referendum.

A public hearing is set for Tuesday, Feb. 26, in the Lake Region Vocational Center’s Great Room at 7 p.m.

SAD 61 School Board Chairman Janice Barter told selectmen that half of the regular elementary student body at Songo Locks School receives instruction in portable spaces. She described the space issue as reaching a “critical” level, especially with the state pushing to add Pre-K programs in the very near future.

Barter, who moved to the Lake Region as Crooked River was being built in 1984, noted this is SAD 61’s third attempt to repurpose the Route 11 building back to elementary instruction space. Not only will the project address space problems, it will be “budget neutral” — with SAD 61 retiring three debts (LRMS renovation, Stevens Brook renovation and Songo Locks portables for a total of $648,000 annual cost), payment on Crooked River would be a tad more (projected at $660,000 annually) and start once the project is completed, likely in two years.

Superintendent Al Smith, who considers himself a “frugal person,” said the expansion/renovation would meet expected growth (projected at 2%) over the next 20 years. In his 15 years as a superintendent, he has never been in a position to pitch a project to selectmen and taxpayers that creates virtually no new debt.

While Naples selectmen Monday night put off a decision until their next meeting, Bridgton Selectman Carmen Lone felt comfortable acting upon SAD 61’s request for support.

“We’ve seen this project for a long time. It’s a good project, and it’s necessary,” Lone said.

Fellow selectmen agreed, casting a 5–0 vote to support the plan.

For more information about the project, see the SAD 61 website, www.lakeregionschools.org

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