Portland schools seek $2.2M in capital improvements

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PORTLAND — The School Board sent a nearly $2.2 million list of capital improvement projects for 2017 to the City Council as part of a five-year plan.

The numbers for 2017-2021 are still estimates, school officials said, and do not include major school construction or renovations.

The plan, recommended 8-1 Jan. 19 by the board, will be part of a larger city discussion. The only dissenter, board member Sarah Thompson, Monday said there were big-ticket elements in the CIP that didn’t do enough to address facility needs.

Thompson said “unless we make renovation investments” at the city’s four elementary schoolsall of which need renovations or replacement – she is “willing to vote for something lower.” 

According to estimates from the 2016-20 CIP, the citywide capital plan for 2017 cannot exceed roughly $12.6 million without affecting the tax rate, so the school recommendation may be subject to change. Last year the School Department received just over $1.1 million of the $14.7 million fund.

The 2016-2020 CIP called for approximately $61 million for city and school projects to be paid for through the operating budget, the fund balance and by issuing general obligation bonds.

One of the more expensive items in the new plan is replacing the fire alarm system at Portland Arts and Technology High School at 196 Allen Ave. Craig Worth, the School Department’s deputy chief operations officer, said updating the system could cost the city approximately $225,000.

Worth said the project would be very similar to a planned project to replace the fire alarm system at Portland High School, the city’s oldest school. That plan was part of last year’s CIP, and was approved for $150,000. However, the project was delayed, and Worth said it will happen this summer, though some work in the attic could begin over the Feb. 15–19 school break.

Doug Sherwood, facilities coordinator for the School Department, said all the sensors and wiring in the system need to be replaced at PATHS, and contractors  will be “basically starting from scratch.” Sherwood said replacing the system would take place over the summer of 2017.

Worth said engineering costs are included in the estimate, but engineering can’t begin until the CIP is approved by the City Council in the spring.

An additional $500,000 is proposed for projects at the Peaks Island Elementary School. Worth said “a bulk of that money” will be for masonry work, including brick replacement and waterproofing.

Because engineering hasn’t been done, Worth could not speculate about what the masonry costs might total. “With masonry there’s a lot of man hours that goes into that type of work,” he said.

The boiler at the school also has to be replaced, which Worth said would likely cost “under $100,000.”

An additional $250,000 is listed in the CIP for window replacement at Deering High School during both 2017 and 2018. Details have not been finalized, Sherwood said, but retaining the character of the building will be a priority.

“The windows have outlived their useful life,” he said. “The issue is age and integrity at this point.”

There is an estimated $50,000 set aside for engineering at Casco Bay High School, which Worth said is for creating a new entrance to the school’s “Great Room,” where the students meet every day. He said a second entrance would allow the entire student population to be able to move in and out of the room more easily.

Creating the new entrance is listed in the 2018 CIP at $500,000.

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

Portland Arts and Technology High School at 196 Allen Ave.

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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.