Bath-area RSU to hold hearing on school construction question

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BATH — Regional School Unit 1 will host a public hearing Monday, Oct. 23, in advance of the upcoming decision on whether to build a new Morse High School.

Voters in the four-community RSU will decide Tuesday, Nov. 7, whether to construct the school at the Wing Farm Business Park. The state would fund $67.4 million of the $75.3 million cost; $7.2 million would be paid locally through borrowing, and $700,000 is earmarked from fundraising over the course of one to three years.

Next week’s public hearing will be held in the cafeteria at Morse High School, 826 High St., at 6 p.m.

The referendum marks the 13th step in a 21-part, state-mandated process

About 100 RSU 1 residents in April unanimously supported building a new school in a show-of-hands straw poll – the sixth step in the process. In a second poll last month, which was the 12th step, all but one of approximately 160 voting-age residents supported the concept design and budget for the school.

The state Board of Education unanimously accepted the concept design Sept. 13.

With approval of the referendum next month, the school – which would also house the Bath Regional Career & Technical Center – could open north of the Wing Farm business park in August 2020. Construction is the 20th step, with a project audit concluding the multi-year endeavor.

The school would be accessed via Anchor Road, off Congress Avenue, with emergency access only from Wing Farm Parkway.

Major items included in the local burden – above and beyond what the state is willing to fund – include a second gym ($786,000), a larger theater ($346,000) and cafeteria ($351,000), and a geothermal heating system ($910,000).

More information can be found through the Morse-BRCTC Building Project link at rsu1.org.

The proposed three-story building would be nearly 186,000 square feet, a bit larger than the current school and BRCTC combined. Morse has a population of 615, and the new school would be built for 650.

The 20-year bond could have the following annual impact on taxpayers at the outset, based on $100,000 property values: Bath, $31.69; Arrowsic, $17.59; Phippsburg, $13.87; and Woolwich, $30.96.

With a successful vote next month, Morse will be the second locally approved new high school. A new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, supported in March, is also due to open in 2020.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A public hearing on a proposed new Morse High School in Bath will be held Monday, Oct. 23.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.