Regional School Unit 2 officials will host three public meetings this week to talk about the district’s plan to build a new school in Monmouth.

Voters in RSU 2 — which includes Hallowell, Farmingdale, Monmouth, Richmond and Dresden — will decide on the plan for the school during 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 unnamed new school will replace Monmouth Middle and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary with a combined pre-K to eighth-grade school. Superintendent Bill Zima said despite the fully-funded construction, the district will be responsible for paying for the school’s utilities and maintenance, which Zima said will have a minimal impact on residents’ taxes.

The public meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Monmouth Middle, 6 p.m. Wednesday at Richmond High and 6 p.m. Thursday at Hall-Dale High. There will be an informational meeting Oct. 30 at Monmouth Middle to go over any final concerns before the Nov. 7 vote.

“It’s a big win for the community,” Zima said during an interview last month.

Zima said he doesn’t anticipate taxes rising in RSU 2 because of the new school due to the savings the district will realize when construction is complete and the school opens.

“The consolidated school will be built more efficiently than the current middle and elementary schools,” Zima said. “We are estimating more than 75 percent savings in maintenance and between 40- and 50-percent savings in fuel costs.”

Now, there are five furnaces between the two schools, but the new school will only have one, representing a significant reduction in cost and a more efficient operation. Zima said the district was very lucky to receive the earmarked funds from the state.

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

When the state released a list of schools that qualify for the funds available through its capital school construction program in 2011, Monmouth Middle ranked ninth on the list and Cottrell Elementary 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 vote, 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.

The existing Monmouth Middle School was built more than a century ago and has sloped floors and an inefficient and expensive heating system, Zima said, and students must walk through a locker room to get to some classes.

Monmouth Middle 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.

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 remaining cost of about $71,000. The land will only be purchased if the referendum is approved by voters in November, Zima said.

The superintendent credits the state department of education for seeing the value in consolidation to a single school.

“I’m excited,” Zima said.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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