- Police Beat
- The Forecaster
SOUTH PORTLAND — City voters will not be called to the polls in September to decide on a bond to fund local spending on a new middle school.
In a City Council workshop following a brief meeting Tuesday, City Manager Scott Morelli was advised to plan for the bond referendum as part of the Nov. 5 election.
This means Morelli and city staff will not be presenting a bond question for first reading in early July. The city manager said Tuesday he does not yet know how much the bond will be, but it will have $1.6 million to construct a multi-use path to link the site on Wescott Road to the Redbank neighborhood.
The School Department has been working with WBRC Architects since 2016 on the plan and design on what is expected to be a $50 million school for grades 5-8 that will consolidate Mahoney and Memorial middle schools.
Superintendent Ken Kunin said the state is paying for almost all the work, based on the idea it will be one school to replace both, as opposed to two new schools.
WBRC Principal and Architect Michael E. Johanning said progress on the plan and the 21-step state process needed to approve the school design would have allowed for a September bond referendum.
Initial plans were approved in a local straw poll last year, and Johanning said the project is now approaching its 11th step, with another community meeting coming April 4 at 6:30 p.m. at South Portland High School.
A September referendum could have given the project a leg up in bidding and possibly reduced costs because of labor shortages in the construction industry, Johanning said.
Lingering questions about design, security, transportation, the local share, and voter participation gave councilors and the public pause about an early referendum, even as Johanning noted Gorham, Falmouth and Hampden are towns that passed school bond referendums in September.
Johanning said a large revision to the design of a school with four wings would now have two wings with three stories and two with four stories. The original concept called for four stories all around.
The school will be built behind and between Memorial Middle School and Skillin Elementary School. Additional local costs would include 1,600 square feet of the 4,100-square-foot multipurpose room and more parking for Skillin staff.
Tuesday’s meeting went into recess for 15 minutes before the workshops began after councilors did not act on the nomination of Rosemarie DeAngelis to serve on the Civil Service Commission.
DeAngelis, a former city councilor and mayor, was nominated to continue her tenure by District 3 Councilor Misha Pride. The nomination was not seconded by the council, which angered DeAngelis and former councilor Adrian Dowling.
Dowling said he was “ashamed and aghast” there was no second to at least discuss the nomination.
DeAngelis was more pointed.
“How can you put your heads on your pillows at night?” she asked councilors, saying their personal animus toward her had superseded her desire to serve the city.
Given five minutes to speak per public comment rules, DeAngelis continued to talk after Mayor Claude Morgan asked her to step aside. He then asked for the recess.
Morgan declined to comment Wednesday on the situation.
A conceptual sketch of the new South Portland middle school, which could open in 2024.