BRUNSWICK — A plan to upgrade and renovate two schools has been estimated to cost the town $21 million, but the actual costs may start to emerge in early March.
While the total costs for the project are currently not known, costs for a new bus garage have been narrowed, ranging from $2.5 million to $3.3 million, depending on the location. A new potential location for the garage has also emerged.
Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects, the firm hired to plan upgrades and renovations at Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School, told the School Board Wednesday that the full costs for every piece of the project will be presented to the board on March 6.
Keck said the costs will be divided into four cost options for each school: additions, repair and code issue upgrades, energy code conformance updates, and full renovation.
The purpose of dividing the costs like this, he said, is to allow the board to choose what parts of the project it wants. The board’s decisions would eventually be sent to voters in the form of a bond referendum.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski indicated last week that the borrowing plan may not be ready in time for a June referendum, as the board originally hoped, and may have to wait until November.
Perzanoski said the urgency to expand Coffin Elementary to address a future population bottleneck is not as great, because there have been some some new developments for student population projections, including news that 125 families wouldn’t be moving to the area for work at Bath Iron Works in the near future.
On Wednesday, the board discussed how the future student population should impact the final costs of the facilities plan, besides the need to renovate aging parts of the buildings.
“The big question is, population is a variable that’s very hard to nail down,” board member Rich Ellis said. “We are today sitting at a certain number, but if anyone could accurately predict exactly where we’ll be five, 10, 15 years from now, I would pay them a lot of money for that because I think it could go in a number of directions.”
Ellis said persuading taxpayers to renovate the schools for structural, health and safety issues will be an easier task, but he thinks it’s important to replace the current mobile classroom units at Coffin Elementary with expanded capacity within the building.
“Those aren’t usable spaces that we should be continuing to use,” Ellis said.
Keck presented three current location options for a new bus garage, necessary because renovations and expansion at Coffin Elementary.
The costs for building a garage at 6 Industry Way, site of the old Times Record building, would be the lowest, at $2.5 million. The most expensive option, on Old Bath Road, is $3.3 million. A Brunswick Industrial Park site would come in at almost $2.9 million.
After Keck presented the three options, Perzanoski revealed an additional choice: an existing garage on Pelican Street at Brunswick Landing that could potentially cost less.
Based on discussions with Steve Levesque, executive director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, Perzanoski said a ballpark figure of $600,000 could be expected for upgrade costs. He said a lease for the building could cost $2 or less per square feet for 20,000 square feet, which brings the annual lease to around $40,000.
Perzanoski said the building would have to be leased for now, because MRRA does not yet own the property.
“Certainly based upon this new information, I think it would be important for the board to research this option,” the school chief said.