WINTHROP — The Winthrop school district is seeking an additional $100,000 in order to repave the grade school’s parking lot so that it complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools will ask the Town Council on Monday to appropriate the funds needed after the project costs reportedly swelled due to inflation.

The town had already set aside $140,000 for the paving project as part of an $850,000 allotment that also funded the purchase of a new bus and repairs to a fire suppression system. Since then, the cost of the paving project increased by over 70%.

The school district had applied for the Maine Department of Education’s School Revolving Renovation Fund last spring to help pay to repave the lot at the Winthrop Grade School at 23 Highland Ave., but was denied. Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said paving projects “rarely” get accepted, and that the quote for the project was prepared as part of that application.

Then, later that spring, the district received an Americans with Disabilities Act complaint about the lot, reapplied for the funding and received it with top priority because of the need for compliance with federal regulations. The complaint against the district raised concern that the “very old” paving did not meet ADA standards and, in response, the district was also instructed to provide adequate parking spots and signage.

With the School Revolving Renovation Fund, the Maine DOE gives the district a loan, which in this case was for $454,589, and agrees to forgive 51.6% of it, or $234,704. The rest of the loan — 48.4% or $219,885 — must be paid for by the district. The loan amount was approved before the price of the paving went up, so the district has to pay the difference.


“The (Winthrop Town Council) set aside $140,000 for the portion of the repayment and we have two choices,” Hodgkin explained. “We can go to the council on Monday, have them approve $100,000 and pay the $240,000 and do no bond, which was the initial plan before all these things went up (in price) … Or they can bond this instead of paying back the money, which is more like $225,000, if they don’t want to set aside more.”

Per the guidelines of the loan, “school districts are responsible for project cost overruns,” and if there is a surplus, they cannot use the money on a different project, only the one the money is intended for. The project must be completed within 20 months of the district being awarded the money, which was in January.

The project is expected to be completed over the summer in the better weather, Hodgkin said.

To be in compliance with ADA guidelines, the district must have the proper signs in front of accessible parking spaces, a level parking lot and enough distance in and between spaces where a van with a ramp can park, among other requirements.

“There weren’t designated spots for ADA parking spots where they should be, the pavement was really bad, just really bad, it was unsafe and uneven and we didn’t have any signage. We did have the designated parking spaces, but no signs where they should be. We have taken care of that, we put some signs in right away, but we still haven’t addressed the issue of the paving,” Hodgkin said.

If the Town Council does not approve the additional money, or a bond, the district would have to add it to its 2023-24 budget, which is currently being created.

Hodgkin brought the issue to the school board on Wednesday and officials said that if the town does not appropriate the money outright, the next “best option” would be to bond the difference over a five-year period with a repayment of $45,000 a year.

In order for a bond to be approved, there has to be a town referendum.

“It seems in one way, it would make a lot of sense to use the undesignated funds and ask for a little more to finish the project,” said school board Chair Kelley Hooper. “Because if we go to bond, we have to go to the town for a vote and there is the potential they say no and we put it off forever, but if we do end up doing the bond, we have more money available so there is less of a tax increase for the school budget.”

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