April 21, 2013

Environmental permit pending for WPS upgrades by Leah Hoenen

Officials from the Windham-Raymond School District await environmental permits before work can begin on a bus loop and playground upgrades at the Windham Primary School.

The district’s planned renovations would address traffic problems at the school and house new equipment for the playground, facilities director Bill Hansen told members of the RSU 14 Board of Directors at its Wednesday, April 10 meeting.

Engineering estimates say the work could cost as much as $900,000; the district has $350,000 in capital reserve earmarked for a new bus loop in the front of the building, Hansen said. When actual bids come in for the project, Hansen said he will present figures and the board can discuss how to fund the work, he said.

Board Chairman Catriona Sangster said, “In the last two budget seasons, the public has voted to put money that was there in the end into a reserve specifically for the (bus) loop.”

Assistant Superintendent Donn Davis said the capital plan has more needs than money and that the financial committee will prioritize needs and present recommendations to the board. 

Hansen said the plan to create a bus loop and a separate car loop should alleviate traffic congestion at drop-off time. Board members have visited the school in the morning and board member Kate Brix said part of the bottleneck she saw was caused by parked district vans. She asked Hansen to investigate that aspect as well.

The project is broken into sections, including the bus loop, a parent drop-off area and 38 additional parking spaces, soft-play areas and the new playground. The playground plan includes a stone-dust walking path within the fenced-in area, which was designed to prevent dark areas for easy, thorough supervision, Hansen said.

The facilities budget contains money for the new playground equipment, $21,000 a year for 5 years, and the primary school is raising money to contribute to the equipment purchase as well, Hansen said. Funds already budgeted will cover the new equipment and the cost to grade the playground and add drainage, he said. A group of school volunteers has already raised more than $12,000 to put toward the playground equipment, said Michelle Jordan, who spearheads that effort.

Board Vice Chairman Marge Govoni said the playground work is necessary. “That playground is a nightmare and I’m just talking about topographically. Everyplace there’s somewhere flat, there’s something on it. It’s wet. It’s hard to get the kids out after a rain. They’ve gone out to get boots out of the mud,” she said.

“The timing is now based on the DEP review,” Hansen said. The average permit review takes 60 days, he said, and if that proves to be the case, the district could get the go-ahead for work to start work in late June or early July. If it takes longer to receive the permit, there might not be time to do work this summer, he said.

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