Brunswick school repairs up in the air while board awaits council advice

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BRUNSWICK — After the Town Council last week rejected a School Board borrowing proposal for repair of Coffin Elementary and Brunswick Junior High schools, a plan to remediate the two buildings remains unclear.

The council voted 8-1 Aug. 3 not to send a $12.6 million bond to a public hearing, effectively preventing it from going to referendum on Nov. 3.

At its Wednesday night meeting, the School Board asked the council for more guidance, although the council chairwoman said that probably won’t happen until fall.

Both buildings fail to meet basic standards for fire, ADA accessibility, and hazardous materials. The $12.6 million would have been used to bring the buildings into compliance, to replace portable classrooms, and for light cosmetic updates.

But the council expressed support for a potential larger bond to build a new school, and a smaller amount of money up front to put into immediate repairs.

Some School Board members expressed frustration with that decision Wednesday night.

“I find this whole process worrisome,” board member Brenda Clough said. “That list (we presented) was just a subset of the repairs needed.

“I get that we’re in a political game … (but) we’re at a point where our schools need to be operational. Time ticking is going to be our enemy,” Clough said. “I find it incredible we’re not able to move forward on this.”

Board member Corinne Perreault agreed.

“The council chose not to have a public hearing on (the bond),” she said. “I think that was irresponsible to say the least.”

But other board members wanted more council input before proceeding with an alternative.

Chairman William Thompson said “it would be helpful to get clarification … on the amount they think would be acceptable for repairs that would be immediate.”

“Failing to move forward … puts (the schools) at the risk of failure,” he added.

“I would be interested to see the number that (the council) wouldn’t need to go to referendum with,” board member Sarah Singer said, referring to the fact the council can decide to borrow without requiring a voter referendum.

She also stressed exploration of a major renovation of either the elementary or junior high school, rather than constructing a new school entirely.

The board instructed Superintendent Paul Perzanoski write a letter to the council requesting a time-line on the bond discussions, clarifications about renovations councilors see as immediately or not immediately necessary, and a target amount of money they would approve for near-term repairs.

Perzanoski also informed the board that he has requested that PDT Architects use part of the $23,000 that had been allocated for public meetings after the referendum to apply for revolving-door renovation funds from the state.

If approved, Brunswick could get $1 million to help renovate each school.

After the meeting, Town Council Chairwoman Sarah Brayman, who was in attendance, said the council would probably take up the issue again in the fall, after receiving Perzanoski’s letter.

At one point during the proceedings, Connors, who is the longest-serving member of the School Board, paused for a moment to reflect.

“We’ve been trying to solve these space needs issues for 20 years,” she said.

Corrected August 14: Janet Connors is the longest-serving member of the School Board.

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

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.
  • Chew H Bird

    “We have been trying to solve these space needs for twenty years”

    I can think of no better reason to replace every single member of the school board. There is absolutely no reason this situation should take twenty years of discussion with no resolution. Excuses will be made, but there is no excuse for failure to resolve this issue over a time span of two decades.

  • Queenie42

    If I had a young child or children in school here I would be seriously thinking of moving.