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News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, January 3, 2019
BHCS faces $350k shortfall for renovation project
School Resource Officer talks continue

Finger play

Blue Hill School Board members learn pre-K finger games during a teacher presentation by Kim Astbury and Carrie Clifford. From left, Union 93 curriculum coordinator Dawn McLaughlin, Board Chairman Jan Snow, Jonathan Smallidge and Amy Houghton.

Photo by Anne Berleant Order prints of selected PBP photos.

by Anne Berleant

Blue Hill School Board members awarded a $1.5-plus million renovation contract to Nichols Construction of Bangor on December 12, just days after notifying town selectmen of a $350,000 to $400,000 shortfall in funding the project. The reason is that construction costs have risen in the two years since the building assessment was completed, Chairman Jan Snow said.

“That’s a huge percentage increase in two years,” noted Selectman Ellen Best.

Voters had approved a $1.5 million bond in 2017 for the renovations, to be combined with a $330,000 loan/grant awarded by the state in 2016, and $200,000 in municipal surplus funds from overpayment of property taxes in 2015 and 2016. A first round of bidding in early 2018 brought in two proposals that were both considerably over budget.

The renovation project includes installing a sprinkler system, bringing the building up to current fire and safety codes, creating additional classroom space, upgrading wiring and the gymnasium and repaving the entrance road and parking lot.

“The package is pretty lean and trim and necessary,” Snow said.

The paving project is estimated to cost about the same cost as the shortfall, leading Selectman Jim Schatz to comment, “If there’s any fat, it could be in the paving, a $400,000 ticket.”

Schatz suggested giving the paving plans to Road Commissioner Bill Cousins to see what it would cost for the town to undertake the project.

“Perhaps we could do it just as well and less expensively,” Schatz said.

The renovations will begin in early 2019, in places it won’t affect students and teachers, Snow said.

In other business, Sheriff Scott Kane spoke to the school board about a school resource officer (SRO), after addressing the Union 93 board on the same topic in November. While the state has $2.8 million to fund school security, that money can’t be used to hire personnel but is for items such as cameras and metal detectors, Kane said.

Kane has already met twice with a George Stevens Academy administrator to discuss an SRO at the high school, he said. Snow said she would reach out to GSA administration to discuss the possibility of sharing an officer between the schools.

To bring in an SRO, two things need to happen: the school(s) would need to fund the salary and benefits of a specially trained sheriff’s deputy to serve as an SRO, and the Hancock County Commissioners need to approve funding training, equipment and a cruiser for the SRO in the sheriff’s department budget, a line item that was previously cut. But, with a new commissioner elected, that could possibly change, Kane said.

Principal Shelly Schildroth said the school can’t leave school safety entirely to an SRO.

“We always have to be ready and prepared,” she said, noting that staff training in security issues, such as dealing with an active shooter, is ongoing.

In new staffing, Noah Davis was approved as the boys “A” basketball team coach, Haydn Ciomei as the chess club coach, and Linda Graceffa was approved as a long-term sub for grade 1.

The meeting began with teachers Kim Astbury and Carrie Clifford discussing, and demonstrating, the curriculum and materials used in the pre-K classroom.

The board next meets on Wednesday, January 9, at 5 p.m. in the school library.