WINSLOW — The Town Council voted to send a school renovation bond in the amount of $8.1 million for residents’ approval in June after striking down the $8.6 million plan that had been approved by both the School Board and Building Commmittee.

Councilor Jeff West flipped the vote Monday evening after initially voting in favor of sending the $8.6 million to voters at the first reading of the order on April 9, which had passed 4 to 3. West did show hesitation concerning the proposal when he proposed tabling the order at an April 23 special meeting to take a second and final reading on the vote because of confusion surrounding a meeting with the School Board.

When asked after the meeting why he changed his vote, West said he did not have a comment at this time.

After the $8.6 million proposal was rejected 4 to 3, Councilor Patricia West asked what the four councilors who voted against the order wanted to do now.

A motion was proposed to vote on a bond in the amount of $7.83 million, which the council had come up with as a target for the building committee after the $10.3 million bond failed at the polls in November.

“Are we seriously going to vote on a number that we wrote down on a piece of paper? A number that we pulled out of our (expletive)?” Patricia West asked, visibly frustrated. “That’s what we did. We wrote down numbers and came up with an average.”

Councilor Ken Fletcher responded saying he didn’t think the $7.83 million was a “whimsical number,” but one that they could all live with.

Councilor Ray Caron made a motion to amend the $7.83 million to $8.1 million, saying that there were certain aspects to the $8.6 million that could be delayed and effectively lower the cost.

Councilor Ben Twitchell asked how the council could vote on a numer that did not have a plan attached, which is the case for both the $7.83 or $8.1 million numbers.

The $8.6 million bond would have funded the closing of Winslow Junior High School and the renovation of both the high school and the elementary school in order to absorb the displaced sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. In addition to classroom space for those students, the bond included money for a new 428 seat auditorium, and for auxiliary gymnasium and food service expansions at the high school. It also includes money to renovate the elementary school to add space for sixth-graders.

With an $8.1 million plan, the auxiliary gym and cafeteria expansion likely would be delayed, as Caron said that would be the least disruptive option.

The order to pass the $8.1 million number was passed by a vote of 4 to 3, with Councilors Caron, Patricia West, Jeff West and Steve Russell voting to send it to a referendum and Councilors Ken Fletcher, Ben Twitchell, Jerry Quirion opposed. The council also waived the need to take a second reading so that the bond can appear on the June ballot.

However, the $8.1 will not go on the ballot with the full support of the panel.

In addition to the bond order, the council also passed a resolution 4 to 3 recommending that the voters not pass the referendum question in June.

Councilors Ken Fletcher, Ben Twitchell, Jerry Quirion and Jeff West voted to recommend that the voters not pass the referendum, and Councilors Ray Caron, Patricia West and Steve Russell voted to endorse the project.

Jeff West was the only councilor who voted both to send the bond to voters and to recommend that the voters reject the bond.

After the meeting, School Board Chair Joel Selwood said he was confused by the votes taken by the council.

“They passed what they passed, I guess with the intention of getting the half gym and some other pieces off the project to get the cost down,” he said. “I guess that’s where they’re going.”

Patricia West also elaborated on her frustration.

“We are not the educators. We are not the experts. That’s why we went to School Board. That’s why we went to the Building Committee,” she said. “We are not the ones that should decide. We are not the ones who should be deciding we’re comfortable with doing this.”

The polls will be open for the referendum from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 12 at Winslow VFW Banquet and Conference Center on 175 Veteran Drive.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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