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Falmouth borrows to keep school projects on schedule

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Falmouth borrows to keep school projects on schedule

FALMOUTH —The School Department will use short-term borrowing to jump-start construction of athletic fields and a wood chip boiler, Director of Finance and Operations Dan O'Shea said.

An elementary school project approved by voters last fall, which includes $1.25 million for the fields and $1.8 million for the boiler, suffered a setback when the Maine Department of Education announced school building projects will be delayed because of a shortfall in the state budget.

In an effort to keep the schedule to meet the original projected opening of September 2011, the School Department will use bond anticipation notes to finance construction of the fields behind the superintendent's office and the boiler that will sit behind the high school.

"Borrowing by the local community does keep the project going and pay the architect until the state bonding for the project comes through," O'Shea said. "When the state money comes through in January 2011, then the town gets reimbursed for those (notes)."

Though the financing may cost the town more, O'Shea said the department wants to take advantage of a favorable bidding climate that could change quickly with the influx of stimulus money. By securing lower construction costs and having the wood chip boiler operational to heat the high school by next winter, O'Shea said he believes borrowing now could actually save the town money.

"We haven't nailed down the savings (by using the wood chip boiler)," he said. "We had calculated when oil was higher; it's quite a significant savings."

The boiler is designed to heat the high school and middle school, with the high school's existing oil heating system capable of being a back-up heating source for both schools, O'Shea said.

The decision to create the new fields now will give them an additional growing season before they are subjected to heavy use when construction begins on the new school, which will be built on existing athletic fields, he said.

The School Department was given the go ahead by the Department of Education during a meeting last week. O'Shea said he expects approval from the state Board of Education sometime this week. At Tuesday's Planning Board meeting, board members approved site plans for both projects.

Construction of the athletic fields could start in May, with work on the boiler slated to begin after the school year. Both projects are scheduled for fall completion.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.