CRES project changes made, but will new price fly?

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Few argue overcrowding is a serious problem at Songo Locks School.

How to address the problem, however, is the issue with no consensus, at least at the moment.

After a $9.6 million proposal to add new construction and renovate Crooked River School failed by a 3-to-1 margin, SAD 61 officials went back to the drawing board. The next step?

One, Superintendent of Schools Al Smith believes the district needs to do a better job showing the public what overcrowding looks like at the Naples elementary school. Teaming up with LRTV, the district will look to create video footage to illustrate just how dire the situation is.

At a recent school board meeting, Superintendent Smith read through 17 points regarding the problem, as well as addressing why the Crooked River project should include Grades 3, 4 and 5 and not simply two grade levels, as suggested by some residents as a way to lower the cost of the project.

Some bullet-points included:

  • With five lunch periods, some students are unable to go out onto the playground and remain indoors.
  • Large green spaces for Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy are difficult to provide.
  • School lunches, recess and transportation issues are driving the students’ schedule rather than academics.
  • A Grade 3-5 configuration provides enough years together for students to create a positive educational community where staff would get to know the children. This would provide better educational supports, and lessen transitioning.
  • SAD 61 expects to add Pre-K (mandated by the state) in the near future, thus if Songo Locks is a Pre-K to Grade 3 school, overcrowding will remain an issue.

Smith also address the idea floated by some residents that Crooked River could be renovated for $500,000 to $600,000 and reopened by this fall.

“I have spoken to two architect firms asking this specific question,” Smith said. “PDT Architect had already provided a rough estimate of construction and renovations to be able to use the building as a Grade 4-5 school. They provided a price of approximately $4.5 million. It didn’t address the parking area, busing issues, parent pick-up and drop-off (area), stage, literacy room, existing windows, insulation and playing fields.”

In talking with another architect, Smith was told the existing building fails to provide enough square footage to meet today’s educational needs, such as special education services, resource room and staff toilets. Other issues include no classroom storage, the cafeteria and nurse station needs renovation, and plumbing problems exist.

Steve Blatt of PDT Architects unveiled a reduced project — Scheme D — at a workshop meeting Monday night at Lake Region Vocational Center.

Officials said the goal was not to diminish the number of program spaces, while trimming the price tag to a point that taxpayers would support.

Key changes include:

  • The music, stage and auditorium wing was removed from the front of the building. At the moment, an addition adjacent to the gym will allow for a stage to be constructed. The gym will be an all-purpose space. A gym curtain and acoustic rigid wall will be added, enabling students to still play sports in the gym.

A handicap ramp and stairs will be needed.

There will be a space to store chairs and physical education equipment.

  • The front of the building will look similar to now.
  • The wood pellet boiler and silo were removed. One of the existing boilers will be replaced, and the remaining one will be used as a back-up.
  • The major change is a new music room in the locker room area — the room will be accessed from the gym.
  • There will be a new maintenance area.
  • The kitchen will be relocated with a loading space.
  • Public bathrooms will be located close to the multi-purpose room.
  • Relocation of the nurse’s office, guidance, speech, resource room and social worker space
  • The remainder of the first floor is the same as originally proposed. The upstairs changed very little. The library location will change.
  • The ballfields will not be resurfaced.

Blatt noted that the revised design results in a reduction of 5,000 square feet of new construction (15,650, $3.3 million) and 3,000 square feet of renovation (23,500, $2.3 million).

School capacity would be 15 classrooms at 20 students each for a total of 300 students.

Items remaining in the project include installation of a sprinkler system and reworking of the current elevator.

Cost: $7,995,000.

Blatt used figures from an existing project in Fryeburg — construction of a new elementary school on the grounds of Molly Ockett Middle School, as well as renovations to the existing MS.

Monday, the figure was $8 million prompting Casco Director Tom Hancock to wonder if there was any way the project could be trimmed to the “7s” range — feeling psychologically, taxpayers might be able to buy into that sticker price.

Casco Director Phil Shane suggested one way to cut about $50,000 from the project would be to eliminate the oil tank replacement, and address the matter with Capital Reserve funds, which are earmarked for such projects.

A “collapsible” vs. a permanent stage could save $150,000.

Failure of the first project proposal to gain taxpayer approval has now pushed SAD 61 back in terms of the construction timeline.

“I am not confident confident we can get this done within a year,” Blatt said. If the referendum had passed, a “squeezed” September 2017 opening was possible, Blatt said.

If the revamped project is approved and put out to bid by November 2016, a likely opening could be as late as January 2018.

Directors would like to get a new Crooked River version before voters by the first part of April.



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