SAD 75 residents rank new Topsham school amenities

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TOPSHAM — Energy efficiency items and greater gym space are among amenities some residents of School Administrative District 75 would like to see in a new high school.

Attendees at an Aug. 3 public forum were presented a list of potential amenities for the school, above and beyond what the state would fund, and asked to place colored dots on charts to show which elements they considered to be high, medium, or low priority.

But project manager Kathy Kahill of PDT Architects noted Wednesday that tallying the results was not as simple as looking at the numbers from each of the three columns, since not everyone voted for each item, and certain items had a much stronger showing than others.

Support for each item was tallied by weighing the scores, Kahill said. The items that topped the weighted list were additional gym space, adding roof and wall insulation, and more energy-efficient heating systems.

Lower-priority items were those residents wanted to pay for through fundraisers, and were not as time sensitive, while medium and high items would be part of school construction, and would tend to be funded through a local bond, according to Kahill.

Voters in the four district towns – Topsham, Harpswell, Bowdoin and Bowdoinham – could decide at referendum this November or next June whether to build a new Mt. Ararat High School and replace the existing, 43-year-old structure at another location on the Eagles Way campus.

“We were very pleased with the attendance,” Kahill said Wednesday, noting that more than 75 people participated in the forum, “which for the middle of summer is outstanding.”

“It was an educated group of people asking really good questions,” she said, noting that queries included return on investment in the project, proposed uses for additional spaces, and about infrastructure and systems.

The items to received the most mixed results included new bleachers with a press box ($100,000, according to preliminary project costs), baseball field dugouts ($50,000) and a scoreboard ($30,000). “But those received very strong support to be fundraised for,” Kahill noted.

Project elements to receive medium priority included a snow-melt system at five major entry points in the school ($50,000), in order to avoid having people slip on the floor.

Sports bag rooms (about $41,000), which would provide a place for students to place their equipment during the day, was also of a medium priority. Also listed were “exterior teaching aprons” ($60,000), which are paved areas that could be used as teaching platforms, according to Kahill.

Higher-priority items included 5,000 square feet of additional gym space ($1.5 million), additional wall insulation ($100,000), added roof insulation ($200,000), photo-voltaic roof steel ($30,000), geothermal and geo-exchange heating systems ($450,000), triple-glazed windows ($100,000).

“A lot of the high-performance items received a lot of positive support,” Kahill said, referring to elements geared to reducing energy costs. “We love to see that. That’s very well-educated people thinking long term.”

With the public input in hand, PDT will now allocate the lower-priority items to SAD 75’s project fundraising committee, formed this spring. PDT will also look closely at the items that would need to be part of the base building, in order to identify which should be included in the bond referendum.

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

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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.
  • Chew H Bird

    I wager not a single question (priority) about building a school that would last more than 43 was listed as an option. Just imagine if residents had to build a new house every 43 years…