OAKLAND — Residents heard from the superintendent of Regional School 18 on Thursday evening at an informational hearing about a proposed multimillion-dollar bond voters will face at the polls on Nov. 7.

About 35 people attended the last in a series of public hearings aimed at informing people about the many pieces of the $13.9 million bond, which needs to get an overall majority of votes from all five towns to pass.

Oakland, Belgrade, Sidney, China and Rome make up RSU 18.

The school board approved sending the bond questions to the ballot 9-1, with Karen Hatch Gagne, of Sidney, opposed to the motion, at a meeting on Aug. 9 after hearing from a number of speakers on both sides of the issue. Some opposed the bond because it combined funds for necessary construction and renovations with money for an athletic complex into one item.

On Thursday, Superintendent Carl Gartley told the audience that the proposed plan will allow for quick solutions and long-term planning. It will upgrade schools in each community and bring the district in line with the state fire marshal’s requirements.

“The other thing that came out of our facilities committee, and they really pushed this, is that doing nothing is not an option,” Gartley said. State funding cuts forced the district to push maintenance projects to the side, which is why the costs grew so large.


If the bond passes and is paid over 20 years, it will cost someone with a house worth $100,000 an average annual cost of $39.60 in Belgrade, $49.10 in China, $43.48 in Oakland, $38.48 in Rome and $49.21 in Sidney.

The bond would include money for an athletic complex project proposed by the Messalonskee All Sports Boosters, which 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.

Students, parents and the school staff say that the athletic facilities now are not completely safe and don’t provide equal opportunities for all athletes. For example, the girls lacrosse team hasn’t been able to play a game at home in two years, according to Lisa Burton, president of the All Sports Boosters. There also isn’t a field in the district that’s accessible for students with mobility problems, she said.

Tyler Backus, an Oakland resident and a school finance and compliance coordinator for the Maine Department of Education, questioned whether a turf field was necessary, and whether it would incur an extra expense. While the district has the only Class A track team without a rubberized track, there are only 11 turf fields in the state, he said.

Four sports will be able to be played on the field, and maintenance should be required only every 12 years or so for a fraction of the original cost, according to Burton.

Before the meeting, Backus said that while he originally opposed the bond, he now doesn’t know which way he’ll vote. After speaking with Gartley and researching, he said, there’s a lot of good work in the bond, but he still questions some issues.


Another audience member asked about potential fundraising for the athletic project. Burton said her group plans to apply for more than a dozen grants if the bond is approved. The All Sports Boosters also plan to seek sponsorships for naming rights to the complex, as well as signage and scoreboards. They also will sell bricks in the complex to raise money.

The board originally had considered a motion to enter a bond for $3.9 million to fund an athletic complex project proposed by the Messalonskee All Sports Boosters.

After residents and board members raised concerns about other necessary facility work that might require a large bond, the school board authorized Gartley to create a capital plan with an estimated cost for the total project.

A facilities committee has found that the district needs at least $10 million of work at various buildings for things such as new boilers and roof replacements. RSU 18 also is facing costs associated with fire safety upgrades after the Office of State Fire Marshal found 104 items in the district’s 11 buildings that needed to be addressed to reach compliance. The district has submitted a plan to the state to implement solutions for each item within the next five years.

The cost for all pieces of the plan is $13.9 million, but any money raised by the All Sports Boosters beforehand would be put toward the project and not taken out in the bond.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour

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