Public silent in Bath hearing on new Morse High School

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BATH — A public hearing Monday on the proposal by Regional School Unit 1 to build a new Morse High School drew no comment, Superintendent Patrick Manuel said Tuesday.

Voters in the four RSU 1 communities – Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich – will decide whether to issue construction bonds for no more than $7.2 million in a referendum Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Ron Lamarre of Lavallee Brensinger Architects – the Manchester, New Hampshire-based company RSU 1 hired to provide architectural and engineering services – gave a presentation as part of the RSU 1 Board of Directors’ meeting. That attracted few questions, Manuel said, mostly about security at the building’s front entrance. 

“We’re just trying to prepare now to get the word out,” he noted, adding that RSU 1 will mail residents an informational flyer about the upcoming vote.

The state would pay $67.4 million of the $75.3 million cost; a cap of $7.2 million would be funded locally through borrowing, and $700,000 is earmarked to come from fundraising over the course of one to three years.

“Hopefully it goes well on (Nov. 7), and then we can keep moving forward with the whole project,” Manuel said. “We’re excited.”

The decision marks the 13th step in a 21-part, state-mandated process.

In step No. 6, about 100 RSU 1 residents in April unanimously supported building a new school in a show-of-hands straw poll. In a second poll last month, the 12th step, all but one of approximately 160 voting-age residents supported the concept design and budget for the school.

The state Board of Education unanimously accepted the concept design Sept. 13.

If the referendum is approved next month, the school – which would also house the Bath Regional Career & Technical Center – could open north of the Wing Farm business park in August 2020. Construction is the 20th step, with a project audit concluding the multi-year endeavor.

The school would be accessed via Anchor Road, off Congress Avenue, with emergency access only from Wing Farm Parkway.

Major items in the local cost burden include a second gym ($786,000), a larger theater ($346,000) and cafeteria ($351,000), and a geothermal heating system ($910,000).

More information can be found through the Morse-BRCTC Building Project link at rsu1.org.

The proposed three-story building would be nearly 186,000 square feet, a bit larger than the current school and BRCTC combined. Morse has a population of 615, and the new school would be built for 650.

Taxpayer impact at the outset of the 20-year bond, based on $100,000 property values, would be $31.69 a year in Bath; Arrowsic, $17.59; Phippsburg, $13.87, and Woolwich, $30.96.

With a successful vote next month, Morse will be the second new high school in the area. A new Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham, approved in March, is also due to open in 2020.

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

Voters in Regional School Unit 1 will decide Tuesday, Nov. 7, whether to build a new Morse High School in Bath.

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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.