SAD 61 to give Crooked River project third try

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Will a third time be a charm?

SAD 61 is gearing up to give the Crooked River School expansion project another crack.

Architect Stephen Blatt of Portland made a brief presentation to school board members mainly showing how the price of the scaled-down second version of renovating and expanding the Route 11 facility has jumped in price.

When the proposal went to voters, it called for $7.8 million. After the first try in 2015 was defeated, SAD 61 officials trimmed $2 million from the plan, but were still unable to sell it to taxpayers.

Now, the price is estimated at $8.4 million.

Blatt noted that initially there were projections that the housing market might cool down, but it has remained solid pushing both labor and material costs up. Another factor is Maine’s Department of Education restarting its school construction program.

Blatt figures 2018 prices will hold through the summer, and then could rise a slightly.

“It’s very fluid,” he said.

When asked what a timeline might look like, Blatt said once a referendum vote passes, it takes about seven months to put the project out to bid, meaning a November vote would place bids in early summer. If construction starts in late summer, Blatt anticipates that the project would be complete by Sept. 1 of the following year.

The bigger problem is attaining a “yes” vote.

Superintendent Al Smith knows the overcrowding issue will not subside, noting that enrollment is up 50 students.

“We’re not shrinking,” he said. “I don’t foresee things changing other than us continuing to grow. I want to see this district develop a project that has longevity.”

Seeing plenty of new construction over his four years here (including the beginning phases of construction of a new Hannaford store in his hometown of Poland), Smith expects the region to continue to draw more people, including school-age children.

He also doesn’t want to see SAD 61 be dragged into the portable unit sinkhole. With two portable units at Songo Locks School, SAD 61 is spending $100,000 for the leased spaces, money the superintendent feels is being “thrown out the window.” A renovation and expansion of Crooked River would address the region’s educational needs for the next 50 years.

That will be just one of several talking points, including the district retiring two debts over the next two years, SAD 61 officials will use when they try to sell the idea once again.

Director Phil Shane of Casco, who serves on the facilities committee, was disappointed with the vote totals from Casco and Naples, the two towns benefiting the most from the project. Shane suggested that SAD 61 might look into bringing on outside “professionals” to assist the district with the PR campaign.

“I’ll take any help I can get,” Smith said.

Smith noted that he “learned several lessons on what I can do better” from the previous two attempts.

A board committee will be formed to assist Smith with project promotion and other matters. Directors voicing an interest to serve on the committee were Janice Barter, Gary Lewis, Stan Buchanan, Karla Swanson-Murphy, Alison Caulfield and Deb Albert. There was also discussion about having community members join, as well.

Bridgton Memorial, the next step?

Like a tennis ball, what to do with the Bridgton Memorial School site keeps bouncing back-and-forth between SAD 61 and the Town of Bridgton.

A few weeks back, Bridgton held a think tank where various ideas were talked about and included on a master list.

However, SAD 61 holds the final say on what happens next. So, Bridgton officials — through liaison Superintendent Al Smith — sought some guidance from the school board as to what types of usages would the district support.

At the moment, the old school is a storage building. With a tight budget upcoming and an attempt to revive the Crooked River project on the horizon, Director Phil Shane questioned what SAD 61 will do for storage if Bridgton Memorial is surrendered to Bridgton?

For starters, some stored items would likely be placed in a yard sale or head to the dump. Then, officials could determine if adequate space remained in the grandstand adjacent to Stevens Brook Elementary.

Directors did say they would be against the town selling off the Bridgton Memorial property to a commercial developer, but would support using the site for “community-based” projects. One “favorable” project previously discussed was a rec center with other available space to possibly house Adult Education.

Now, the ball is back in the Town of Bridgton’s court.


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