MONMOUTH — Local voters gave tentative approval Thursday for the purchase of three plots of land by Regional School Unit 2 for the eventual construction of a new Monmouth Middle School, and possibly even a new elementary school to stand alongside it.

The three plots of land together make up 43 acres on the east side of Academy Road, just north of Monmouth Academy and on the same side of the road as the high school.

Sixty local voters raised their hands in support of purchasing that land during a public meeting and straw poll held Thursday night by officials of RSU 2, the school district made up of Dresden, Farmingdale, Hallowell, Monmouth and Richmond.

But the vote was informal, and any purchases of that land eventually would require votes of approval by each of the district’s five towns.

The vote was held at Monmouth Middle School, a more-than-100-year-old building that has a number of problems and which state officials have placed near the top of a list schools that have been approved for renovation or replacement with construction money available through the state.

The straw poll for the selection of a site was just one of many steps that the district must take before the state Board of Education eventually can agree to replace the middle school with public money.

Construction of a new school would not begin sooner than 2019, officials said at the public meeting.

No voters at the meeting raised a hand to oppose the purchase of the land.

With the affirmative vote, RSU 2 officials will submit a site application soon to the Board of Education, which will consider the application Nov. 9, said Jim Grandahl, a Monmouth resident on the RSU 2 board of directors.

Grandahl, along with several other board members, district employees and area representatives, sits on a special committee that has been appointed for the school construction process.

Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School also has been ranked as one of the schools around the state that eventually could qualify for state construction funds, albeit quite a bit lower on the list than the middle school. While officials ranked the middle school as ninth in line for construction money in 2011, they ranked the elementary school 56th.

But there is a chance the state would approve the money for both projects at the same time, Grandahl told those at the meeting Thursday night, given the savings it could mean for the state.

If the state eventually approves the land purchase, it would pay $95,000 for the acquisition, while district taxpayers would have to cover the remaining $71,000 of the land’s value.

But on Thursday, Grandahl told those assembled that the district would save well over $71,000 in the coming years in fuel, transportation and other costs if all three Monmouth schools were next door to one another.

The middle and high schools are currently across the street from one another, while the elementary school is 1 mile down the road.

Two of the parcels are owned by the local water district, while a third is privately owned, Grandahl said.

After getting state approval for the land purchase, RSU 2 next would have to get a concept for the new schools approved by the Board of Education, followed by approval from all five district towns to borrow the money for the land purchase.

Further design work would proceed after that vote, Grandahl said.

The state’s commitment to fund a project does not indicate how much money a school district can expect to receive for its proposal, Bill Zima, superintendent of RSU 2, said last spring. If the state does not offer to fund the whole design eventually, the district can ask taxpayers across the district to make up the difference.

The state also refunds many of the upfront costs that a district puts into its proposal, Zima said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker


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