WINSLOW — The Winslow School Department is moving forward with a just-under-budget plan to renovate its elementary and high schools.

Invitations for bids on subcontracted work will go out next week, after the school board voted 4-1 to authorize the move at a special meeting Thursday night.

Cory Dow was the only member of the board to reject the construction plan, which was reduced in scope from the original design in order to get it below the $8.1 million bond. Assistant Chairman Earl Coombs was not present.

“Even though people have worked very hard on this … in the long term, I don’t think this satisfies what this town needs,” Dow said before the vote. “I feel that the town makes short-term decisions and doesn’t think about the long term, and I think in the long term we need a bigger school with all of the facilities that were voted on. The elementary school needs more work. … Enrollment in the elementary school is increasing, and that concerns me. We’re going to pay for it as taxpayers.”

Other officials agreed with that sentiment but felt, as board member Nathan Tyler summarized, that moving forward with the altered plan “is the best decision with the hand we’ve been dealt.”

Chairman Joel Selwood added that “it is hard to predict the future,” when it comes to enrollment.

“The elementary school will suit our needs for the population that we have,” he said. “If we are fortunate to have growth, we will cross that bridge when we get there.”

Work is scheduled to begin July 1 — nearly two months after initially scheduled — and finish by late August 2020. Superintendent Peter Thiboutot reiterated that time constraints made it impractical to go back to the drawing table once they heard in February that the full project would cost $3.1 million over budget.

“We are working with certain restrictions,” he said Thursday. “(The bond) needs to be spent within the first three years (that it’s issued). If you don’t (do that) … there would be financial penalties to town of Winslow … which we wanted to avoid at all costs. There are certain timelines we needed to meet in order to make this construction season, because if we didn’t, that would push this project out another year, which would have incurred more costs — (and) we don’t have (money) to work with.”

Construction Manager Peter Pelletier, of South Portland-based Ledgewood Construction, said he will interview the submitters of the lowest two or three bid for each trade three-and-a-half weeks after he sends out the project information. Earlier this week, Pelletier said he hopes to present the guaranteed maximum price in mid-June, which the school board then must review and approve before the subcontractors are signed on to the project. Most recently, Pelletier estimated the project to cost $8,098,224, which is based on quotes he received at the end of April and includes $350,000 of contingency specifically designated to accommodate higher-than-expected bids.

“Nothing is locked in right now … (but) we feel pretty confident that when we go out to bid, the numbers are going to be pretty close to what these are,” Pelletier said Monday evening at a public meeting at Winslow High School, at which he also described a tight labor market. “The question is, are we going to get three or four bids?”

The guaranteed maximum price is a long-awaited figure for a handful of residents and town councilors who have voiced repeated concerns over financing and transparency after it was reported at that rising construction costs and a labor shortage pushed the original plan $3.1 million over budget. This announcement came on Feb. 12, roughly eight months after Winslow voters approved the $8.1 million bond for the renovations.

“Ledgewood is going to be your cheerleader for the project, making sure subcontractors are interested in the project so we can get competitive numbers,” Pelletier said Monday.

At Thursday’s meeting, board member John Ferry voiced hope for additional funding down the line. The design that will be implemented allows for an expansion of the high school auditorium, for instance, which was one of the components that was cut out of the original proposal in order to save money.

“Hopefully, in the future there will be a bond that can help complete some of our long-term goals,” Ferry said.

Board member Randi Clatchey agreed.

“I do appreciate all the work that’s gone into the plan that we’ve come up with,” she noted. “I feel that it’s a solid and adequate plan that’s been worked hard on, and I have faith in it. I have to agree with Cory that in the future it’s not going to be the facility that we all wanted and that the people voted on, and I wish we had time to go out to referendum again (and to see whether it) was it about the money or about the facility. That’s going to be something that we’re just not going to know. Like John said, I hope that it will become the facility that we wanted, and I support the plan.”

Selwood said that the “value engineering” that he and school administrators, architect Doug Breer and Pelletier were able to complete allowed them to include more than they initially thought when they saw the initial price tag. As it stands, a 2,160-square-foot band room will be built onto the high school instead of an auditorium. There will be a new freezer added to the cafeteria instead of an entirely new cafeteria. The gymnasium will be expanded, similar to the original proposal. The seventh- and eighth-grade classrooms that will be added to the high school will stay concentrated in one wing as planned, which Thiboutot said “maintains the junior high school identity.” Several classrooms will be slightly altered or reassigned for new purposes. Ultimately, the plan to decommission the junior high school building by moving the sixth grade to the elementary school and the seventh and eighth grades to the high school, will still succeed, he said.

“I think it is taking some big steps forward to move out of (the junior high school) building, (which) is long overdue, and surely the concerns that have been raised are legitimate concerns,” he said. “You deal with the times that you’re in, and I think that’s what we’re dealing with.”

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.