The school district made up of Litchfield, Wales and Sabattus has taken the first step toward replacing the roof on Oak Hill High School, a project that would benefit from up to $1 million in state funding.

This week the Regional School Unit 4 board of directors voted to award the project to a Lewiston firm that priced it at $792,000. Now the project awaits approval by voters in each of the district’s towns during a referendum on April 25, Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said in an email.

A public hearing about the project is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, in the Oak Hill High School auditorium before a regular school board meeting.

The state Department of Education has offered to pay for two-thirds of the project as part of a revolving funding program for districts that need to repair and replace buildings, as long as the work costs less than $1 million. The state also has offered an interest-free 10-year loan for the remaining third of the project’s costs, Hodgkin said.

The proposed upgrades will improve the roof’s ability to hold snow. According to a description on mainebids.com, the project would include the removal of asphalt shingles currently on the roof and the addition of a rubber membrane. It also would make structural upgrades, such as the installation of fabricated wood trusses, glue-laminated framing and metal decking.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the taxpayers of RSU 4 to get a significant project done for a tremendous reduction in costs,” Hodgkin said in a news release. “This work has to be done in the next few years regardless, and this is an amazing financial opportunity for our taxpayers and district.”

Hodgkin added, “If the voters of these three towns vote this money down, the (Department of Education) will simply give the money to the next school on the list and eventually the RSU 4 taxpayers will have to foot the whole bill for this work. I would hate to see that happen.”

Hodgkin did not know the exact cost of the project to taxpayers. He said the total could exceed $900,000 because of overages and administrative work, but added, “this is still below the $1 million cap that the state will pay.”

The board voted to award the work to Hahnel Brothers Co. of Lewiston. The district also hired a structural engineer, Walter Barsch, to consult on the project. The first payment for the work would not be due until the 2018-2019 school year.

“With building and facility maintenance and management being a critical component to the success of our students, we are excited to be able to bring this financial opportunity to the taxpayers,” said Josh Bisson, chairman of the RSU 4 board of directors, in the news release. “There is a great appreciation for the cost of operating a school district on the taxpayers. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around often. We would love to seize it to its fullest if approved.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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