Bath council to get new high school design details in March

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BATH — The City Council Wednesday received an update on the status of the high school construction project.

Regional School Unit 1 officials also plan in March to provide more information on building designs, as well as elements that could be included in the project that the state would not fund.

The council also approved a letter of solidarity to be sent to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe on the North Dakota group’s opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The council last October approved RSU 1’s option to purchase a 26-acre parcel at the Wing Farm business park for $277,500. The district, which must exercise the option by July 31, is also looking into buying two smaller pieces of land at the site before putting the project to a straw poll of RSU 1 residents.

The district includes the city of Bath and the towns of Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich. 

In the meantime, the city and the school district plan to pay to get out of a federal grant restriction imposed on property at the business park, so the new Morse High School can move forward. 

“It’s been a very arduous process, but we are certainly making progress,” RSU 1 Superintendent Patrick Manuel told the council, saying the district must soon decide whether the school would be accessed by either Wing Farm Parkway or Anchor Road.

The initial design of the school calls for a three-floor building. Following feedback from the Maine Department of Education and the community, RSU 1 will hold public forums on more detailed designs.

While the state will pay for most of the construction, there are likely to be above-and-beyond items that, should they meet the approval of residents in RSU 1’s communities, would be funded locally, Manuel noted.

“The next time that we would come back to you would be hopefully in March, with an update on the design of the building, as well as that list (of items), with figures that go with it,” the superintendent explained.

“It’s amazing how much work is involved in making a school project like this happen, and you’re doing a fantastic job in working with everyone,” City Manager Bill Giroux told Manuel and others at the meeting involved with the project.

More information can be found at sites.google.com/a/rsu1.org/morse-building-project.

Pipeline opposition

The council voted 4-2, with Greg Page and Bernie Wyman opposed, to send a three-paragraph letter of support to Dave Archambault II, the Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman.

“The City Council of Bath, Maine, wishes to convey the City’s solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline,” the letter opens.

Protests against the pipeline have stemmed from concerns about its impact on the Missouri River. Although the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said in December it would not allow the pipeline to advance, President Donald Trump last week signed an executive order calling for the Corps to speed up its review of the project.

Bath residents, including Shelley Little, who spearheaded a local petition that drew nearly 650 signatures, asked for councilors to stand with the tribe.

Calling the effort a noble one, Page said his opposition to sending the letter “has to do with speaking for people that I don’t think I have the right to speak for.”

Councilor Susan Bauer said the public has had plenty of time the past three months to weigh in on the matter, “and I haven’t seen any negative response to it.”

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

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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.