SOUTH PORTLAND — Skeptical of how voters will react to a $47.2 million high school renovation bond, the City Council Monday got behind ordering an independent review of the renovation plan.
The council has been asked by the School Board to put the bond question on the November ballot and on Monday was presented with a renovation plan proposed by the School Facilities Committee.
While councilors showed support for renovating the aging high school, which suffers from a myriad of structural and design problems, several questioned the price tag, given that voters overwhelmingly defeated a $56 million renovation plan in 2007.
Councilor James Hughes said he wants to see a third-party review.
“We didn’t do well the last time,” Hughes said. “I don’t want us to lose again.”
In the wake of the 2007 defeat, the facilities committee reorganized and came up with a scaled-down plan that eliminated a turf field and a second gymnasium. It also added green design elements.
Still, some feel $47.2 million is still too much money. Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis said she’d like to see the cost reduced to a maximum of $30 million.
“I can’t support this project,” she said Monday.
South Portland High School was built in the 1950s, and enlarged in the 1970s and 1997. The 1970s “annex,” as it is known, suffers from a lack of insulation, water leakage, mold and overall decay. There are also access issues throughout the school. The 1997 music and theater addition was built on what some describe as marshland, and has to be air-conditioned all the time to prevent mold from growing.
The high school has been put on warning status by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, which accredits high schools, and has until October 2013 to have a plan and funding in place to address the concerns the association has noted with regard to the physical structure of the school.
If South Portland fails to meet the 2013 deadline, it could be placed on probation – even though, as Principal Jeanne Crocker noted, the association highly rated the educational offerings and achievements of the school.
At the conclusion of the workshop meeting, councilors agreed to pursue an independent review and to schedule another workshop to review financial information provided by the schools.
No date was set for the workshop, and no further guidance was given regarding the independent review.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A rusty window sill in a classroom at South Portland High School, damaged by water from a leaky roof. The sill also shows signs of mold and is one of many structural problems plaguing the school.