WINSLOW — The committee charged with creating a school renovation plan voted 19-0 Monday evening to endorse the new $8.1 million bond approved by the Town Council last month.

School administrators and school board members were forced to alter the $8.6 million plan that the building committee had originally drafted, which would close the junior high and renovate the elementary and high schools to accommodate the displaced students, when the Town Council voted to shave off $500,000 from the project’s budget.

Stephen Blatt, the architect on the project, presented those alterations to the committee Monday, explaining that the space they wanted would be built, but it would be without the bells and whistles.

Blatt said he took “a little chomp” out of every piece of the project except for the money budgeted for new construction of the seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms and support spaces, which makes up $4,108,000 of the project, as well as the $477,000 in sitework for both the elementary and high schools.

The auditorium would lose 180 square feet as well as 15 seats, making for a total of 415 seats in the theater. Technology and furnishings to equip the theater have been reduced by $50,000 in the new plan.

“Our theater will not be more beautiful than the one we have now,” Blatt said, adding that it would be larger, however, with better lighting and sound systems — albeit not first-rate systems.

The auxiliary gymnasium still would be expanded to a full-court gymnasium, but would be reduced by 550 square feet.

The cafeteria expansion also would be reduced, but only slightly, in order to accommodate a smaller freezer that still has the same storage capacity. Funds for kitchen equipment have been decreased by $70,000.

Money for furnishing and technology have been reduced by $50,000 to $330,000 in the bond. Furniture being used at the junior high would fill in to furnish the school. Likewise, the schools would delay replacing some of the technology.

Additionally, Blatt said the renovations to both schools would be reduced in scope by 10 percent.

“Of all the efforts we’ve had to meet in the middle — this is the middle,” he said, referring to achieving a compromise with the council.

He added that he is comfortable moving forward with this plan because no programming space has been cut.

Eric Haley, the superintendent of Alternative Organizational Structure 92, said he was impressed with the work the group did in coming up a plan for the approved $8.1 million bond. He said the obvious cut was expanding the auxiliary gymnasium, as it would have matched the $465,000 they needed to cut from the bond. However, it also would have derailed the parks and recreation programs that use the elementary school gymnasium several days a week after school.

“I was impressed they had that consideration,” Haley said. “It shows that we want to do this together to make this community what we know it can be.”

Phil St. Onge, a Winslow resident who’s been a vocal opponent of the renovation project, said at the meeting that he has a problem with the way that the June 12 ballot question on the project was written. Since the spreadsheet detailing how much money goes to each part of the project — which the committee handed out at the meeting — is not included on the ballot, he said, the school board is not “legally bound” to go through with what’s on the spreadsheet.

“You’re asking Winslow to trust this group of people to do what they say they’re going to do,” St. Onge said.

St. Onge’s comment prompted several committee members to respond in frustration, with some asking why he thought they would engage in a “bait and switch.”

“The way it’s written does not bind you to do this,” St. Onge repeated. “It’s a fact.”

He did not say specifically what he thought the board and committee would change if they were to skirt the plans that had been presented by Blatt.

“What Phil just did is a classic Phil move, which is a diversion and moves us from what the focus is,” Haley said to the committee. “Who hasn’t given any indication that we’ve been sincere and genuine in what we’re doing?”

Following St. Onge’s remarks, the committee voted 17-2 to allow only questions, rather than commentary, from the public for the remainder of the meeting.

Town Councilor Ray Caron, who also serves on the building committee, raised the concern that the council’s recommendation that the $8.1 million bond ought not to pass, which was passed as a resolution 4-3 after the bond was approved, would spell failure for the bond at the polls.

He wondered if the latest revision would change the minds of some councilors who voted for that resolution.

Other members said they also worried that they had lost support that had been there before and that misinformation was being spread about the project.

Joel Selwood, chairman of both the school board and the building committee, said committee members need to have conversations about what’s in the plan and hope that people are ready to compromise.

“There isn’t a single person in this town that’s going to get everything they want,” Selwood said. “I think this is a reasonable compromise with the constraints that have been placed upon us.”

No information sessions have been scheduled yet, but the committee discussed holding one before the June 12 election.

The school board will vote on whether it endorses the plan May 21 at its regular meeting.

Emily Higginbotham — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @EmilyHigg

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