SAD 75 voters OK new Mt. Ararat High School

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TOPSHAM — A new Mt. Ararat High School will become a reality, after voters approved two referendum questions Tuesday.

Residents in the four School Administrative District 75 towns voted to build a new school, with an artificial turf field, to replace the 44-year-old structure on Eagles Way.

Voters first were asked to approve the base project at an amount not to exceed $60 million, which includes $6.2 million for locally funded items that the state will not cover. That passed overwhelmingly, 1,773 to 392.

The question was approved in all four towns: 854-151 in Topsham, 472-128 in Harpswell, 202-55 in Bowdoin, and 245-58 in Bowdoinham.

The second question, contingent on passage of the first, asked whether a $649,000 synthetic turf athletic field – to be composed of something other than crumb rubber, which has raised health concerns – should be added to the project.

That question passed by a narrower margin, 1,246 to 914: 594-409 in Topsham, 352-247 in Harpswell, 135-122 in Bowdoin, and 165-136 in Bowdoinham.

Superintendent Brad Smith Tuesday night praised the turnout, calling the support for Question 1 “gratifying.”

Concerning the margin on Question 2, he said, “we’ve got to make sure people understand we are not going to use crumb rubber.”

“I’m excited, and gratified, and just absolutely delighted,” Smith said. “… This has been a team effort all the way through, and it’s going to keep being that way.”

Building Committee Chairman John Hodge said “We started a journey two years ago to develop a plan for a new high school with the hope that it would be approved by the voters. Tonight we are extremely pleased that the new school and turf field has passed and now we can begin the hard work of building a brand new Mt. Ararat High School.”

The planned 153,000-square-foot building, slightly smaller than the existing school, is designed for 750 students – 721 is the current projection for 2020 – with 40 classrooms, nine science rooms and a 17,000-square-foot gym, according to Lyndon Keck of PDT Architects, the school’s designers.

The new structure, will have 422 parking spaces and will replace an open-plan school built in 1973 that largely lacks interior doors and walls.

Items to be funded locally include additional gym space, seven more general classrooms and an additional science classroom, all meant to bring those areas more in line with space allocations in the current school.

Other elements include solar hot water and a geothermal/geo-exchange system.

Items that would be paid for through a local fundraising initiative include baseball dugouts, athletic field scoreboards, a gym ropes course, and an irrigation sprinkler system.

The annual tax increase for the four towns would be $33 in Topsham, on an average home assessed at $182,000; $106 in Harpswell, on a $425,000 home; $46 in Bowdoin, on a $178,000 home, and $41 in Bowdoinham, on a $178,000 home. Houses with higher assessed values will see a proportionally higher tax impact.

More information can be found at construction.link75.org.

The school received unanimous approval in January from the state Board of Education, a necessary step before the project could go to referendum.

Construction of the new school, which will be built on the existing school’s competition field, will begin next year, with opening planned in fall 2020. The existing Mt. Ararat High will be demolished, with the turf field built on that site by 2021.

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.