BRUNSWICK — The School Board on Wednesday generally embraced a long-term facilities plan that would invest in building repairs while preparing the groundwork for new school construction.
In a workshop, Superintendent Paul Perzanoski and Facilities Director Paul Caron proposed putting off new construction in favor of a $2.5 million annual account for maintenance of existing buildings and saving for future projects.
They also recognized the increasing unlikeliness that Brunswick will build a new school in the foreseeable future.
Board members, who have spent three years and $176,000 in an effort to come up with a facilities “master plan,” were receptive.
Perzanoski said that even with approval from the Maine Department of Education, it could take eight years to finish a new school in Brunswick, and the town might easily have to wait until at least 2024.
Considering the limited support for locally fund new construction, Perzanoski recommended the board develop its state application, work on a local bond for school renovation, and develop plans in case students must be moved from existing facilities.
Caron proposed a “three-pronged” annual funding approach – dedicating $500,000 for maintenance at the town’s newest buildings, Brunswick High School and Harriot Beecher Stowe Elementary; $1 million for repairs at Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School, and putting another $1 million aside to help pay for larger projects in the future.
Coffin and BJHS are beyond their useful lifespans and have urgent repair needs, including new fire alarm and sprinkler systems; sewer systems; and window, floor and ceiling replacements. Dealing with many aging portable units is also a priority.
Caron reminded the board that he has been asking for funding to address these issues for years, but was usually unsuccessful because of budget constraints.
He estimated that the department could be funding the repairs for the next 10 years, but needed to start right away before the issues got worse.
“We just keep digging a deeper hole every year,” he said.
The administration’s plan also calls for action on the unused Jordan Acres school, which has been empty for the past three years.
According to architect’s estimates, $4 million in repairs are needed to reopen the school, and Perzanoski said hiring staff and teachers would cost another $772,600.
Board members who spoke to the issue generally agreed that the building should be demolished.
In general, the board members seemed supportive of the administration’s approach, but said they want to make sure the goal of building a new school is not lost.
But Board Member Brenda Clough lamented the necessity to put so much money into fixing old buildings, rather than buying new.
“We have wasted time and we have put ourselves in a situation where we have no options,” she said.
Chairwoman Michele Joyce agreed that the approach is not ideal, but said the board has run into a dead end.
“We really need to deal with the fact that we have a situation in front of us that we have to handle,” Joyce said.”We can’t just let this be.”