Emotions ran high at the New Gloucester Board of Selectmen’s Meeting on Sept. 15 as several citizens weighed in on MSAD 15 Superintendent Bruce Beasley’s presentation about the proposed referendum and facilities improvements.
Beasley explained the process, dating back to the voters’ approval of capital funds to purchase land and conduct a study of the athletic fields and school facilities. He explained that the Long Range Planning Committee met several time during the past two years to prioritize the recommendations of the report and develop the plan that has been brought to the public.
Approximately $4.5 million of the proposed $7.3 million referendum will fund the relocation of baseball and softball fields, add a practice field and construct a new running oval and artificial turf football field. The remaining funds, if approved, will fund the addition of classrooms, parking and structural repairs to the middle school and an overhaul of two antiquated chemistry labs at the high school.
The selectmen complimented the Superintendent’s presentation, but questioned the need to do so much at one time. Members of the public also questioned the decision to offer one referendum question as opposed to splitting it to separate the fields from the buildings. One resident, Colleen Strickler suggested that the district needs to learn the difference between wants versus needs. Another, Mel Craig, shared a letter that she wrote to the Superintendent and School Board expressing her concerns that the proposal is too much too soon, and that the associated increase in taxes might force the very people the district is trying to serve to move out of town due to unaffordable taxes. To emphasize her point, she asked Beasley to provide the percentage of students in the district who are eligible for reduced or free lunch. He is expected to provide that information at one of the upcoming public information forums.
Overall, between the citizens and the selectmen, there seemed to be a consensus that the building and academic improvements are necessary and supported, but that the athletic improvements could wait. One member of the public asked if it was too late for the district to separate the question in two. District representatives were unsure of the legalities to do so. The MSAD 15 Trustees were scheduled to meet on the 17th.
Beasley announced the forum dates for Oct. 6 at Memorial School, Oct. 14 at the GNGHS Library, and Oct. 23 at the GNG Middle School. All of the forums will be conducted between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and he encouraged the public to attend.
In other business, with two applicants and some debate, the selectmen appointed Kevin Sullivan over Kathleen Potter to the unexpired term of Jenny Sprague to the MSAD 15 Board. Sprague was forced to resign due to relocation. Generally, the BOS felt that both applicants were equally qualified but brought different attributes to the table; in Potter’s case more recent experience serving on the board, and Sullivan a fresh perspective. After a motion to appoint Potter failed with Libby, Berry and Chase opposed, a second motion by Berry saw Sullivan appointed with McHenry and Sturgis opposed.
In the interest of time the BOS tabled a discussion about its 2014 activity list and the approval of past minutes.
The New Gloucester BOS is next scheduled to meet on October 6 with Chair Libby noting that it may be moved up to accommodate the signing of the MSAD 15 warrant.
Updated on Friday, 9/19/2014.
The MSAD 15 School Board decided to split the referendum question:
One question for buildings and fields -- without artificial turf $ 6,623,080
Second Question - (If first passes) to approve an additional sum to upgrade to artificial turf on the competition football / soccer field $ 738,000
Question 1: Do you favor authorizing the board of directors of Maine School Administrative District No. 15 (the “District”) to issue bonds or notes in the name of the District for school construction and minor capital project purposes in an amount not to exceed $ 6,623,080 for school construction, renovations, and improvements at existing District schools, including (i) a classroom addition to Gray-New Gloucester Middle School; and (ii) renovations and improvements to Gray-New Gloucester High School and to Gray-New Gloucester Middle School, including the school buildings, facilities, and athletic fields?
Question 2: If Question 1 is approved, do you favor authorizing the board of directors of Maine School Administrative District No. 15 (the “District”) to issue additional bonds or notes in the name of the District for that Project in an amount not to exceed $ 738,000 in order that the Project budget may include artificial turf instead of grass turf for the high school stadium field improvements made as part of that Project?