Brunswick to reboot scrutiny of school renovations plan

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BRUNSWICK — The $38.3 million plan to renovate two public schools will come under “significant evaluation” beginning next week, a School Board member said this week. 

The board will hold a special facilities meeting on May 29 at 6 p.m. at 16 Station Ave. – its first since March 6, when Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects revealed the costs of renovating Coffin Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School, and moving the School Department’s bus garage.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Perzanoski said the board will receive updates on the costs of a new junior high school, the viability of a bus garage relocation to Brunswick Landing, and bonding options from Financial Director John Eldridge.

Board member Rich Ellis, chairman of the facilities committee, said the meeting will effectively serve as a “reboot” for the board’s process on the school facilities plan, because its estimated cost is far more expensive than what the board was expecting.

“I would not be surprised at all to see more significant evaluation as to what we are planning,” Ellis said. “The size of the estimate that came back will require us to go back to evaluate our assumptions and our process.”

Board members previously asked Keck to provide them with cost estimates for building new schools to replace Coffin Elementary and the junior high school.

Ellis said he estimates the costs of a new junior high school will be far more expensive than renovation of the existing one.

On the other hand, he said, the construction of a new elementary school could be more likely because current estimates show it will only cost slightly more than the renovation.

Keck’s estimated cost for a new 660-student elementary school is about $22.5 million, about $4 million more than the $18.1 million estimated for renovating Coffin Elementary.

The estimate was provided to the board at its March 6 meeting.

“The lifespan on a new building is going be somewhere between 40 to 60 years,” Ellis said. “The lifespan on a renovated structure is not going to be as long.”

The proposed renovation of Coffin Elementary calls for moving the School Department’ bus garage from its current place behind the school. The least expensive option now is at 6 Industry Road for $2.5 million, but a local neighborhood group opposes the plan.

Perzanoski said the School Board will hear an update on the possibility of moving the bus garage to Brunswick Landing, which was previously discussed as a less expensive option.

Perzanoski said a bond for the school facilities won’t go to voters for at least another year. School Board members had originally suggested the referendum could be scheduled for November.

When the board begins discussing the school facilities plan again, Ellis said the bond’s impact on taxpayers over the next five to 10 years will be a major consideration.

“How do we roll that into a budget in a way that doesn’t adversely impact taxpayers?” he said.

Dylan Martin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @DylanLJMartin.