Voters in Regional School Unit 2 on Tuesday approved a plan to replace the aging Monmouth Middle and Henry L. Cottrell Elementary schools.

In Richmond, the ballot question was approved 414-402; in Farmingdale, voters approved it 400-260; in Hallowell, it was approved 714-212; in Monmouth, it passed overwhelmingly, with 927 in favor and 219 against; and in Dresden, 241 people approved, with 241 voting against and 25 ballots left blank.

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

The unnamed consolidated school would operate more efficiently, Superintendent Bill Zima has said, and the district estimates saving 75 percent in maintenance costs and 40 percent to 50 percent in fuel costs.

The two existing schools have a total of five furnaces, but the new school would have only one, representing a significant reduction in cost and a more efficient operation. Zima said the district was lucky to receive the earmarked funds from the state.

When the state released a list of schools that qualify for the money 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, the money would go to the next school on the list, and ultimately, RSU 2 would be left footing the bill for any future work on either school.

The proposed school would be built on land next to Monmouth Academy, and it would include softball, baseball and soccer fields; a 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, 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 would cover the larger portion of the purchase price — about $95,000 — while district taxpayers would foot the remaining cost of about $71,000. The land would be purchased only if voters approve the referendum question.

Zima said as part of the agreement that created the RSU, the town of Monmouth gave ownership of the land and school buildings to the district. Zima said its final disposition is up to the board, but typically districts return the land to the town.

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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