Final Topsham high school design could be ready Nov. 2

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TOPSHAM — The final design for a new Mt. Ararat High School could be ready by Wednesday, Nov. 2, when the School Administrative District 75 Building Committee will next meet.

By that point, PDT Architects should have tallied the results of polls conducted at meetings this month in each of the district’s four towns. Participants were presented with lists of items to be considered for either local funding or fundraising, along with the estimated cost for each, which has not been finalized.

If all the proposed items were included and incorporated into a locally funded project it could add up to roughly $8 million. The proposed add-ons would be above and beyond elements the state would fund, which is between $50 million and $60 million, according to Lyndon Keck of PDT.

As of Oct. 11, the building plan was “98 percent of the way there,” and to be “locked down” within the next two weeks, Keck said, noting that the new high school – to be built on the current Eagles Way campus – could open in the fall 2020.

A detailed visual is available at construction.link75.org.

About 75-100 people in all attended the four forums, about half of them new attendees of the school construction meetings, SAD 75 Superintendent Brad Smith said in an interview Tuesday.

Elements that the Building Committee recommends for local funding include additional gym space ($1.7 million), eight extra general classrooms ($2.2 million), geo-exchange/geothermal systems ($544,500), and additional parking at playing fields (nearly $465,000).

At the other end of the spectrum were items such as a photo-voltaic roof ($36,000), a scoreboard (nearly $49,000), and a snow melt system at entrances (nearly $69,000).

Items that have received “varying levels of support” for local funding from the Building Committee include a synthetic turf field (about $890,000), a second scoreboard at an accessory gym ($18,000), and a scoreboard ($36,000) and dugouts ($60,000) for the baseball field.

For every $1 million in state-unfunded projects, a typical homeowner would pay about $5 a year across the four towns, Smith noted.

The superintendent acknowledged that although $5 may not seem like much to many people, “I’m very aware there are people in the community for whom even $5 a year … is going to be more of a struggle. We’ve got tough decisions to make in the next few weeks.”

Interest at the forums was high for a variety of athletic items, such as the turf field, dugouts, and scoreboards, Smith said, noting, “That area, more than anything else, is probably where we’ll see folks indicating at least some effort towards doing fundraising.”

He acknowledged that SAD 75 officials “are still seeing a small sample of the total number of people who tend to vote … but we only get a sense from the folks who communicate with us. Any bit of information we get is helpful.”

By and large, “I think that people see (the project) as an important opportunity for our four towns” to build a school that will impact at least the next two generations of students, Smith said.

Residents of the four towns – Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham – voted 85-0 in a show-of-hands straw poll Jan. 21 in favor of building the new school on the Eagles Way campus. The project’s Building Committee has since recommended siting the new school on nearby sports fields, then demolishing the existing 1973 school and rebuilding the fields at the site of the former school by 2021.

Sports fields at other locations would be used in the interim. Practice fields, intended to be renovated as part of the process, are one potential option.

The Nov. 2 Building Committee meeting, open to the public, takes place at the Mt. Ararat High School Commons at 5:30 p.m.

“I’m hopeful we’ll look at the final version” of the plan that night, Smith said.

A nonbinding straw vote of SAD 75 residents could be held by the end of November on the design concept, and the project may go to referendum next March.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects, the firm designing a new high school in Topsham, presented a plan for the building during a public forum in Bowdoinham Oct. 11.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.