OAKLAND — Voters in China, Rome, Belgrade, Sidney and Oakland will face a $13.9 million bond at a referendum in November.

The school board for Regional School Unit 18 voted 9-1 to allow the superintendent to enter into a bond up to $13.9 million at a long meeting Wednesday evening at Messalonskee Middle School.

The motion for $13.9 million came about after the board asked superintendent Carl Gartley to come up with a capital plan that would take care of all of the pressing facilities issues, including an athletic complex at its July meeting.

At the start of the meeting Wednesday, Tom Burton, board vice chairman, withdrew his motion to enter a $3.9 million bond for the athletic complex and moved instead to authorize Gartley to prepare a bond for $13.9 million.

The board received cheers and claps from the audience of about 70 after approving the larger bond.

The Oakland-based district is facing facilities costs after the Office of State Fire Marshal found 104 items that need to be addressed to get its 11 buildings up to the state’s fire code. The district has submitted a plan to the state to implement solutions for each item within the next five years.


A facilities committee also found that at least $10 million of work is needed at the schools for things like new boilers and roof replacements.

The meeting was preceded by an hour-long public discussion that gave residents on either side of the issue equal time to talk after the July board meeting ended with some angry supporters telling board members they “should be ashamed” for postponing the vote.

The athletic complex project, which was proposed by the Messalonskee All Sports Boosters, requires a $3.9 million bond. The project would renovate the outdoor track and field facilities and include an eight-lane track, upgraded lighting, grandstand renovation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and multi-sport artificial turf to replace the grass field.

The Boosters have raised nearly $35,000 for feasibility studies. The group intends to solicit private donors to help pay for the athletic complex, but it needed a commitment from the board to show potential donors that the project is moving forward.

While some people spoke against the proposal, many spoke in favor of it.

Tyler Pellerin, a student who runs cross country and track, said he’s forced to run on the roads because the high school lacks an actual track. One day he was running across a crosswalk when a car hit him and drove away, he said.


Coaches, teachers and parents also spoke to support a renovated complex.

Andy Forster, a music teacher and Oakland resident, said the complex is important because extracurriculars like sports “give students great identity and confidence that they don’t get elsewhere.”

However, Sherry Gilbert, an Oakland resident, asked the board to prioritize the costs facing the school.

Enrollment is also going down, she said, so a “lavish” $3.9 million complex might not be necessary.

Sidney Selectman Tim Russell read a letter from the select board, joining the towns of Belgrade and Rome to officially oppose the project, that asks the school to address fire code violations and other needed facility work, as well as food service debt.

The proposed facility also got support from teachers like Kate McLaughlin, who said her special education students who use wheelchairs or who have balance issues have trouble getting to the fields because of the uneven and rough walkways. The students not only can’t reach their gym classes, but they also can’t reach the area for science labs.


Lisa Burton, president of the Boosters, said this is the time for the district to “take a bold action to turn back time.”

“Our students deserve safe facilities from the time they get off the bus to the time they turn off the field lights at night,” she said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239


Twitter: @madelinestamour

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