Community meeting

BEC Holds 2nd Community Meeting, BRHS Tour

Residents of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor attended the second community meeting and tour of the Boothbay area high school on August 10 hosted by the Community School District’s Building Exploration Committee. Lavallee Brensinger Architects gave an overview of the work to date focusing primarily on the proposed new BRHS building and Boothbay Area Primary School renovations. At first community meeting on July 14, the the architects focused on the condition of the buildings and the associated costs.

Construction and renovation costs are estimated at $76 million; and Core Renovations and Updates, Band-Aid Approach, $35 million. Alternative Organizational Structure (AOS) 98 Superintendent Robert Kahler said public input is crucial because only voters can move the project forward. The BEC can only recommend the project to the school committee and board of trustees who will send it back for further consideration or forward it to voters for a final decision, he said. The BEC is aiming for a vote in May 2023 with construction closing in 2026, but the timing will depend on the CSD boards.

LBPA Architect Lance Whitehead said the BEC has made some decisions, but as the project is in its conceptual phase, a lot is still up in the air and that’s why the community is being asked to give feedback. .

“We have a concept of what we think the project would include, we have an order of magnitude cost, but everything is very flexible at this point,” Whitehead said. “We (need) the input to start informing the design and making changes…to make it fit what’s justifiable and what you think should be here.”

Students, staff and administration have informed program and space needs, Whitehead said. During the tour, BRHS Director Tricia Campbell said the limitations of the program were always due to a lack of space, not the will or talent of staff or those in the community.

“It’s not about wants, it’s about needs,” Campbell said. “We need facilities that can support the programming our students need (and) the connections we want to make with the community to prepare students.

Much of the work of the architects on the new construction approach focused on the education/learning space relationship. Part of that is identifying where existing buildings impede teaching and learning, he said. “(We) look as far ahead as possible to say what students need to learn over the next 20 years.”

BRHS’ biggest problems include undersized classrooms by Maine Department of Education standards, oddly shaped and outdated science labs, leaky windows, inadequate exit points in the gym , bathroom layout issues, safety and energy issues, including leaky windows, roofs that collect snow and water, and no schools are isolated. Whitehead said it would be difficult to insulate roofs because it would help snow loads that exceed the roof’s load-bearing capacity.

Work at BRES should move forward whether or not a new high school is built, Whitehead said. BRES first floor needs dehumidification and rust mitigation for structural steel decking and joists; it will also need updates to security, heating and ventilation, electrical and plumbing and roofing as well as a new insulated envelope. The only novelty that is not included in the makeshift approach is a maintenance building separate from the school buildings.

The new BRHS would include a first floor dedicated mainly to community access for educational programs, classrooms of different sizes and with the possibility of combining smaller spaces; a single cafeteria shared safely between the schools, abundant natural light, larger creative spaces, a 400-seat auditorium; and any features missing or in poor condition of the existing building.

“We went through several concepts, six concepts rose to the top (as) viable options and we had several meetings, talked about the pros and cons of each… ‘Just keep the high school and expand the areas that you need’ – in the end, we estimated that we were spending three-quarters the amount of money on a new building and getting half the benefit.

The breakdown of new buildings is $59 million in construction costs and $17 million in soft costs which include consulting and professional fees, furniture and equipment, and contingencies. If delayed, the cost of the project will likely increase by 5% or approximately $3.8 million per year. Cost increases for the $35 million in base renovations would be approximately $1.75 million per year. The CSD calculated that a 30-year bond for $76 million at 5% interest would raise Boothbay’s mil rate by 2.88 and Boothbay Harbor’s rate by 2.08.

Whitehead said fundraising has begun through the BREF to reduce costs to the taxpayer; however, he reminded community members that they are always faced with concepts that may change. “This is a concept budget based on a concept design that we are seeking feedback on. That will likely change based on these comments.