Superintendent Bill Zima said he expects to hold several meetings to drum up support for Regional School Unit 2’s plan for a new school in Monmouth ahead of a referendum election in November.

The school’s entire $26.2 million construction cost will be paid by the state, and the district will take ownership of the buildings and assume maintenance responsibilities once the construction is complete.

“The tax impact on the people of RSU 2 will be minimal,” Zima said. “It’s big win for the community.”

RSU 2 — which includes Hallowell, Farmingdale, Monmouth, Richmond and Dresden — has been planning on replacing Monmouth Middle and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary with a combined pre-kindergarten to eighth-grade school for some time. Zima said the district was very lucky to receive the funds from the state.

“It’s now our time, but we need a majority of yes votes from the voters in the community,” Zima said. “Please send the money to us, or else they’ll send it to them.”

When the state released a list of schools that qualify for the funds available through its capital school construction program in 2011, Monmouth Middle School ranked ninth on the list and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary School ranked 56th. If RSU 2 voters don’t approve the plan, Zima said, the money will not be available to the district again.

“What worries me is that the money has already been earmarked, so without a majority of the votes, it’ll just go to the next school on the list,” Zima said.

The proposed new school will be built on land next to Monmouth Academy, and it will include softball, baseball and soccer fields, playground, increased staff and visitor parking, and modern classrooms.

Zima said the current Monmouth Middle School was built over a century ago and has a number of flaws. The school’s floors are sloped, students must walk through a locker room to get to some classes and the building’s heating system is inefficient and expensive.

The consolidated school would be built more efficiently than the current middle and elementary schools, Zima said, with just one furnace to heat it rather than the five furnaces that are now used. It would be next to Monmouth Academy, giving flexibility to and being safer for students who want to take advanced classes, without making them walk across the street.

The district is estimating more than 75 percent savings in maintenance and 40- to 50-percent savings in fuel costs, Zima said.

“Cottrell and Monmouth Middle are our two oldest schools and our most expensive,” he said. “The state’s going to build (the new school), and we’re going to run it, but at a much-reduced cost.”

Monmouth Middle School houses grades four through eight and was built in stages, starting in 1855 with the old Monmouth Academy building. The most recent wing was built in 1989 when Monmouth Academy moved across the street.

Local voters approved the purchase of three plots of land totaling 43 acres on the east side of Academy Road in October. The state will cover the larger portion of the purchase price — about $95,000 — while district taxpayers will foot the rest of the cost — $71,000. The land will only be purchased if voters approve the referendum in November, Zima said.

The RSU 2 board members from each of the five towns will be speaking with their select boards in the next few weeks, Zima said, to help drum up support for the proposal. There will also be meetings in Hallowell, Richmond and Monmouth to discuss the plan, and there will be one big meeting in Monmouth to talk about the referendum.

Zima said there will be flyers around the towns and a mailer will be sent to every resident explaining the process and talking about the school and what it’ll mean to the community.

“I credit the state department of education who saw the value in consolidated to a single school,” Zima said. “I’m excited.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

filed under: