Portland may borrow from state for some school renovations

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PORTLAND — The School Department is applying for state loans for renovation projects at three schools to the tune of just over $2.5 million.

The School Board was slated to have a first reading at its Tuesday night meeting about the projects, which are not to exceed $3 million.

The proposals are for roof repairs at Portland High School, a new sprinkler system at Deering High School, and electrical service work and a new elevator at Longfellow Elementary School.

The application is being made to the Maine Department of Education’s School Revolving Renovations Fund, which provides funding to schools to ensure they are healthy and safe environments.

Under Department of Education guidelines, the grants would be funded through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank. A portion of each loan is forgiven at rates ranging from 30 to 70 percent, depending on the amount subsidized by the state.

Portland’s forgiveness rate is 30 percent; the remainder will be paid back over five or 10 years at zero interest. The maximum loan is $1 million per priority, per school building, within any five-year period.

This year there is funding available in two priorities.

The first priority, according to the DOE website, includes health, safety and compliance issues, such as structural roof upgrades, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, safety issues and others.

The second is for repairs and improvements not related to health, safety and compliance.

According to a memo to the School Board, the School Department is recommending a loan of $675,000 for the roof repairs at Portland High School; $750,000 for the sprinkler system at Deering; and $1.13 million for the work at Longfellow. Each of the school projects has multiple phases; all the projects are in the first priority category.

According to the memo, the first phase of work at PHS would be renovations to the roof on an addition that was built in 1919, to cost approximately $525,000. The second phase is repairing the roof on the original building with a loan of $150,000.

It is recommended that the phases be completed in the next two years, as both roofs are over 24 years old and failing. Replacing the roof on the 1991 addition, a loan estimated at another $175,000, is recommended to be undertaken in the next five years, as is repairing shelving.

At Deering, the recommendation is for two phases of work to be done in the next 18 months.

At Longfellow, during the first phase the electrical service would be upgraded, using a loan estimated at $350,000. The second phase would be installing an elevator in the building, estimated at $775,000.The upgraded electrical service will provide the capacity for the elevator.

The repairs would help Longfellow comply with ADA. Students with ADA needs are now sent to other schools in the district.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.