Approval of a $340,930 bond issue for Regional School Unit 18 at Tuesday’s school budget referendum means some needed health and safety fixes will be made to six of the district’s eight schools.

The money comes from the School Revolving Renovation Fund under Maine’s Department of Education. The fund’s first priority is health and safety issues, as well as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The bond issue is from the state and the state will forgive 43.5 percent of the cost. Ultimately, the school owes the state $192,625 over five years with zero percent interest.

When new money for top priority issues was announced by the state, the district submitted 16 proposals, Superintendent Gary Smith said Wednesday. RSU 18 includes Oakland, Belgrade, Rome, China and Sidney.

Of those 16, eight were approved last winter. The board then approved taking on the debt service, which led to the referendum Tuesday.

The bond received broad support in the vote, winning 1,120-414.

RSU 18 also formed a facilities committee at the beginning of this school year to review buildings and present recommendations to the board. If the district hadn’t gotten the bond issue money, Smith said, the committee would have had to take on the renovation issues.

As of now, the district still has a lot of projects to work on, some of which were sent to the Department of Education but didn’t get approved for bond money, such as roof replacements. The total cost is in the millions, Smith said. He also said the committee will do its best to address the district’s needs at a reasonable cost to taxpayers. The Renovation Fund was one solution, he said.

“When you run eight big schools … there is a never-ending list of maintenance projects,” he said.

He also said that his district and others in Maine struggle trying to balance a flat budget with paying staff, providing programs for students and improving or maintaining schools.

“I believe there’s a substantial need across state to provide funds,” he said.

The bond money will give Oakland’s Atwood Primary School a sprinkler system, which it doesn’t have now, and add sprinklers to the gymnasium and the cafeteria in Williams Elementary in Oakland. Both projects may not be done until next summer.

Using data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System from 2007 to 2011, the National Fire Protection Association found that when sprinklers in a building were operative, 96 percent of the time they were effective. The cost incurred by damage is also less — for educational buildings, damage per fire without sprinklers was $21,000, but with sprinklers it was $8,000.

At Belgrade Central School and China Middle School, money will go toward asbestos tile removal and tile replacement in some parts of the school by the end of this summer. Exposure to asbestos can cause cancer, lung scarring or asbestosis, among other things.

To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, automatic door openers will be added to James H. Bean School in Sidney, and the front entrance to Belgrade Central School will be improved and given another set of automatic doors on the inside. Both should be finished by the end of this summer.

Messalonskee High School’s cafeteria kitchen will get connected to the intercom, which will allow anyone there to hear safety messages. Some money also will go toward access and egress problems involving its locker room doors.


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