$6 million sought for school repairs

BAR HARBOR — A $5 to $6 million bond issue to replace boilers and roofs and update the bathrooms at Conners Emerson School is set to go to voters in June.

The total amount is up from what was discussed during Town Council budget workshops last month. On Monday, the school committee approved a motion for Principal Barb Neilly to ask for up to $6.4 million on the bond.

The new total is based on estimates by Carla Haskell of Ellsworth’s Design Group Collaborative. Improvements included replacing two of the four boilers, replacing both roofs, maintaining the water main to Conners and updating the bathrooms.

Other projects included in the estimates from DGC are not included in the bond proposal, such as replacing windows and upgrading the phone and intercom systems.

Neilly said she received cost estimates for solar power and electric heat pumps before deciding to stick with oil boilers. She believed that the school would not recoup enough money to make a switch in heating systems.

The town has primarily relied on the capital improvement program for school maintenance projects, but Neilly said town Finance Director Stan Harmon suggested a bond issue for this amount of improvements. The CIP fund for school roof repairs currently has about $25,000. The reserve for boilers is currently empty. This would be the first bond issue for the school since 2002, when the school secured a $1.2 million bond to replace the HVAC system.

Neilly said she will discuss the feasibility of the $6.4 million figure with Harmon.

Committee member Lilea Simis worried about the overall load of bond issues on the warrant, noting the town meeting also will consider a $3.5 million ferry terminal purchase bond. She said residents could be apprehensive of the total spending by the town.

The cost of both bonds, about $9.9 million, would increase the mil rate by 2.2 percent, Neilly said.

The committee noted that hosting forums to educate voters before town meeting would be essential for a bond this size. Further, Neilly said that when the bond is finalized, the Design Group Collaborative report would be posted on the town’s website to explain the projects.

Tuesday’s school committee vote does not approve the size of the bond on the warrant; it only shows the committee’s support for Neilly to ask for a larger bond. The final bond amount will be decided by the Town Council after review by the Warrant Committee.

Warrant Committee member Michael Good said he believed it made sense to ask for more money initially.

Committee members said another reason to ask for more money because it would be more difficult to convince the Warrant Committee, Town Council and voters to add projects to the bond rather than to take away.

“It’s not up to us, it’s up to the voters,” committee member Marie Yarborough said. “I think we need to trust that process.”

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd

Samuel Shepherd is a University of Maine graduate and a former Bar Harbor reporter for the Mount Desert Islander.
Samuel Shepherd

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