Naples selectmen address school project rumor
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — To set the record straight, the Naples Board of Selectmen did not take a formal stance on the Crooked River School project, which was twice rejected by voters in the four towns included in the regional school district.
On Feb. 6, a concerned resident, who is also the mother of children attending an over-crowded Songo Locks School, asked the selectmen what it would take to get the Town of Naples to say ‘Yes’ to the much-needed school construction project.
She had heard that the Naples board had voted against the project.
Chairman Bob Caron II reacted with surprise to this account of history. It was either a rumor, a misunderstanding or just incorrect information, he said in so many words.
“We never came out as board and voted to” approve or not approve the Crooked River School (CRS) reconstruction project, Caron said.
“Everyone’s opinion is their own. It’s what they vote when they go to polls,” he said.
Caron said that personally he attended both public hearings for the School Administrative District (SAD) 61 project to revamp CRS.
He said that after voters gave a thumbs-down to the more expensive construction project, SAD 61 came back with a second, less costly project. That one also did not receive voter approval.
“In my opinion, not the board’s, there has to be more of a happy medium cost for the voter,” he said.
The cost of any future construction will impact taxes for however many years it takes to pay off the borrowed money, Caron said.
After the most recent public forum in February, which Caron said he viewed on archived video, “people said they didn’t know how much SAD 61 still owes” on past projects.
After the public forum, citizen advocates for the school project started doing research and gathering opinions as to why it was voted down and what could turn the tide.
Naples Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said, “The one thing that I would draw from this: In a regional (school) district, whatever the viewpoint, (they should) address the concerns and bring those up in” each of the towns.
Resident Jim Turpin pointed out that a total of approximately 800 people voted on the school project and slightly more than 400 voted against it. Casco voters also voted it down, Turpin said.
Meanwhile, the Casco Board of Selectmen did pass a resolution to support the school construction project.
“I voted in favor of both” projects, Turpin said. “It’s important to invest in education. My gut reaction is to vote ‘Yes.’”
“Taxes are the reason that a lot of people voted ‘no,’” Turpin said.
He said the total construction amount would be divided between the four towns (depending on Sebago withdrawal status) and added to budget.
“That wouldn’t go up unreasonably,” he said.
One objective should be to help people know, for example, “whether they are making a $100 decision or a $200 decision,” Turpin concluded.
Resident Doug Bogdan shared his take on the school project. He attended the public forum held on Feb. 1 at Songo Locks School. He said he voted against the project.
“The only slide in the presentation that was left out was the retiring debt. I feel deceived if on purpose or not by the school board,” Bogdan said.
He advised that SAD 61 be more forthcoming with debt still owed and what years those bonds retire so that people know the true cost.
During the public forum, Bogdan said he had to take into consideration any increase in his property tax for the next 15 to 20 years.