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South Portland council delays school bond vote

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South Portland council delays school bond vote

Change to public bidding bidding process discussed
SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council postponed a vote to place an $5.85 million bond referendum on the June ballot to fund renovations to the city's two middle schools and high schools.
The postponement was sought because a consulting bond attorney for the city objected to
the wording of the referendum question, which should have provided a breakdown of
how the money would be spent at each school.
The bond will be taken up again at the council's March 16 meeting, along with a potential change to the City Charter that would allow the council to waive the public bidding process for bonds when it's in the city's best interest.
The charter change is being sought to allow both the city and school system to better utilize the state's revolving loan program, which offers low- to no-interest loans to communities.
Brad Weeks, an engineer in the city's water resource protection department, said the city could benefit from federal stimulus money earmarked for waste water management that is being funneled through the state loan program.
Although $300 million worth of projects are competing for $31 million in stimulus funding, Weeks said the city has a good chance of getting money to replace a pump station in Long Creek or for the Long Creek watershed clean up effort.
Currently, the city must open their bonds for public bidding for a 10-day period, even if the city knows it will ultimately use the state program.
The school district currently uses the state loan fund, but on a reimbursement-only basis.
Finance Director Greg L'Heureux said the city could still participate in the program under the current rules but argued the charter change would eliminate some unnecessary hurdles.
"We could do a public bid," L'Heureux said, "but it would really just be a procedural thing."
City Clerk Sue Mooney said that 3,165 voters would have to be cast in the June election to change the charter. Last June, about 1,100 voters went to the polls.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net.