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.