FREEPORT — Voters in Regional School Unit 5 on Tuesday approved borrowing more than $1.5 million to build an artificial turf field and a running track at Freeport High School.
The project, which was presented to voters in two separate bond questions, was rejected in Pownal and Durham, but overwhelmingly approved in Freeport. Overall, the first bond was approved 1,654 to 1,308; the second passed 1,603 to 1,313.
The first bond is a maximum of just over $1.18 million for the proposed turf field and track. The second bond – which will cover the cost of installing lights at the field and was contingent on approval of the first bond – is for just over $350,000, which brings the total in new borrowing to nearly $1.54 million.
In Freeport, the first bond passed 1,319 to 677 and the second passed 1,282 to 682. In Pownal, the first bond was defeated 191-116 and the second was defeated 188-115. In Durham, the first bond was defeated 440-219 and the second was defeated 443-205.
This was the fourth time in the past 10 years that a version of the project has been before voters, and it was rejected the three previous times. Most recently, in 2013, voters rejected a $1.7 million bond for a track and field project with a vote of 2,793 to 1,776. It was approved in Freeport, but defeated in Pownal and Durham.
The recent proposal to build an artificial turf field and eight-lane running track at the high school came from the Tri-Town Track and Field Committee. The total cost of the project is more than $4 million; the committee raised almost $2.3 million, including a pledge of $1.3 million from Nike, which produces the Nike Grind material to be used in the project.
Included in the first bond referendum is re-purposing bonds voters approved in November 2013 for renovations at the high school. The sum includes $600,000 to repair the soccer field and just over $161,000 for project contingencies.
Also, the school renovation project has come in $1 million under the $14.6 million budget approved by voters, and the RSU 5 board hopes to re-purpose the surplus money for the track and field.
Renovations at the high school are scheduled to be complete by the fall. An addition on the side of the building that faces Interstate 295 is finished and opened to students Jan. 3.
The addition added nine classrooms, a weight room, a music room and a new cafeteria.
Approval of the borrowing means the median residential property tax bill in each RSU town will increase by $100-$200 over the 10-year life of the bonds.
In Freeport, $16.05 will be added to the median tax bill each year. In Pownal, $18.23 will be added, and in Durham the increase will be $14.67.
Durham resident Eric Bowie said he was “very disappointed in the outcome” of the special election.
“It’s very evident now that Durham and Pownal should not be part of the RSU 5 district,” he said. “This further cements the fact that it’s Freeport versus the small towns and that we have very little say in the budget process.”
A representative from the Tri-Town Track and Field Committee could not be reached Wednesday morning for comment.
Freeport High School juniors Maya Bradbury and Andrew St. John on Tuesday in a lounge and study space in an addition recently opened as part of the school’s renovation. (Kate Gardner / The Forecaster)