Architect: Estimated cost rises for new Brunswick elementary school

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BRUNSWICK — The cost of building a new school could be at least $25.8 million, higher than initial estimates, according to a new projection.

The estimate was announced at a meeting of the School Board Facilities Committee Wednesday, June 29, by PDT Architects, the firm that has been designing a potential new school building for the site of the former Jordan Acres Elementary School.

The 89,000-square-foot, 660-student elementary school would have two wings, which could be used as separate “learning communities,” or “schools within schools,” lead architect Lyndon Keck said.

The design means the building will be neutral for configuring grades; the School Department can decide later if the school will house pre-kindergarten through second grade, or pre-K through fifth grade.

The facilities committee has been pushing architects to streamline the plan in recent weeks by eliminating, for instance, part of the second floor and a multi-use “discovery room.”

Yet even with shaving about 11,000 square feet from an earlier design, the new estimate is higher than the $24.5 million previously presented to the board. That’s because the earlier number came from a 2014 building analysis, and was informally adjusted for inflation, according to Keck.

The latest estimate was run by an independent cost estimator, he said.

School Board members were pleased with the latest designs, though, and wanted to move forward.

“I love this drawing and I love the work that you did, and I’m really excited about it,” board member Sarah Singer said.

The board and PDT, however, still have work to do. Not included in the $25.8 million estimate are premiums for geothermal energy, playgrounds, and interior furnishings, along with inflation. Premiums included, the new school could cost about $27.8 million.

Board members discussed bringing in furniture from Coffin Elementary School, and possibly excluding geothermal development – a savings of $700,000 – as ways to cut costs.

Outgoing Facilities Director Paul Caron presented the pros and cons of geothermal energy, which heats and cools Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary.

“It was good in the beginning,” Caron said, but with future maintenance costs, and thelow price of oil and gas, the investment looks less attractive for the future.

There may be “big capital assets we never budgeted for,” he said.

Board members also considered advancing a referendum that is now tentatively planned for June 2017. Inflation adds about $400,000 to the total cost each six months the work is delayed, Keck said, so the sooner a bond is passed the less expensive it will be.

Singer asked Keck to give the facilities committee the earliest date his office could have referendum-ready designs and costs. She said board members would reach out to town councilors to see if they’d be amenable to an earlier referendum than June, possibly a special election.

The amount of the bond remains to be seen: if the money for a new school is combined with approximately $6 million needed to repair the aging Brunswick Junior High School, voters could be asked to approve more than $30 million.

 Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

The former Jordan Acres School at 75 Jordan Ave. in Brunswick.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.
  • Queenie42

    Having a “special election” is voter suppression. How about this referendum going out in November when more people will be at the polls? What are they afraid of? They are afraid of the people’s voice.

    • farmertom2

      Utter nonsense. voter suppression hampers voting. Your laziness is not the same as voter suppression. Indeed, It’s*easy* to vote in Brunswick because we have an excellent absentee voting process.
      And it’s a special election, not a “special election.”

      • Chew H Bird

        Actually, the pathetic turnout at the polls is voter suppression in the same way as not having health insurance results in a fine by our government for being alive. When I receive an boardroom worthy “Water Quality Report” from the esteemed Brunswick & Topsham Water District in my snail mail box, yet there are no funds available for a postcard ,mailer reminding us to vote that is voter suppression by omission. I like to think deciding upon 60% of taxpayer funds is more important than receiving a glorified overpriced marketing junk mail flyer from the Brunswick and Topsham Water District.

        • farmertom2

          A dozen signs, placed strategically around town, would be sufficient to alert the populace that an election is in the offing.

          • Chew H Bird

            If the town can cough up the funds to mail me my tax bills they can send a postcard to every resident for an election. Brunswick has a large and diverse physical area and putting up a dozen signs is rediculous in my opinion.

      • Queenie42

        I was quoting the article. Singer said she would like a special election.
        How many voters would be notified of this date? Many people don’t get the Times Record. Would the school board send out cards? I don’t think so.
        My laziness? I have voted in every election since I was of age. But anyone who isn’t notified of an election beforehand doesn’t get to vote. Therefore it is voter suppression.

        • farmertom2

          I spoke imprecisely — the-laziness-of-anyone-who-doesn’t-bother-to-vote was what I meant, not to impugn your voting record. As for the TR, I don’t get it myself, but it’s pretty hard to live in town and be engaged and *not* know when an election is coming up. they usually put up that electric sign board on Maine St etc…

          • Chew H Bird

            And a great many taxpayers don’t travel on Maine Street, especially now that we have to deal with the absurd speed bumps coupled with tourists this time of year and cyclists passing us on the right (much closer than the three feet minimum distance…

          • Jason Coombs

            Lol, remember the original sign, ” Speed Hump”. Quickly replaced but still in use on Admiral Fitch Dr.

  • Chew H Bird

    I would like to see Brunswick require a 10% minimum voter turnout on any budget item for it to pass.

  • Barbara Fisco

    It’s really simple if you take a close look at this situation. It is insanity. It goes hand and hand with re-paving a school parking lot for $80,000 that has 2 cracks in it. It is the same kind of thinking that installed giant speed bumps on the Maine St. crosswalks and replaced the boiler in the school that had nothing wrong with it. Now we’re talking millions. I wonder how many people know that the budget is divided 60% for the school and 40% for the town? How did that come about? If the homeowners don’t get a little more interested – like to vote – they wont even be able to afford to live here soon. By the way- who decided we needed another bank in this town?

    • Chew H Bird

      Actually, preventive resurfacing of pavement can save a lot of money if it is performed in a timely manner. I have not inspected the actual parking lot in question and I suspect neither has a qualified asphalt. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with you.

  • poppypapa

    Welcome to the standard school department water torture methodology…

    Drip, drip, drip….

    Oops! We didn’t tend to things when they needed it, so now we have to “replace it.”

    And isn’t this reassuring:

    “Outgoing Facilities Director Paul Caron presented the pros and cons
    of geothermal energy, which heats and cools Harriet Beecher Stowe
    Elementary. “It was good in the beginning,” Caron said, but with future
    maintenance costs, and thelow price of oil and gas, the investment looks
    less attractive for the future.”

    There may be “big capital assets we never budgeted for,” he said.”

    It’s nice to see, though, that PDT seems to have a monopoly on the school architecture and construction management side of things. They’re doing the Topsham work as well.

    It must be nice to have pliant school boards and officials act as your marketing department, dispensing Kool-Aid to local taxpayers.

    • Chew H Bird

      Evidently you have missed the monopoly on educational software technology… Decisions are more political than anything. I recall bidding on a school project with another Maine firm a few years back and when the bid was submitted I was informed the decision had been made prior to the bid opening in favor of a Massachusetts company.