Teacher Lyn Gatz shows where water pours into her classroom at Mount Desert Island High School whenever a strong wind blows rain against the side of the building. Repairs to these walls are among the trustees priorities for building maintenance in the upcoming year. ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Leaky walls set for rebid: $1.8 million in school projects eyed

BAR HARBOR — The Mount Desert Island High School trustees voted last week to have architect Mike Sealander send out new bid requests in January for replacing the school’s leaking walls and windows.

The trustees, who are responsible for buildings and grounds, said they are determined to have the project done next summer. They plan to meet Feb. 8 to review bids and, they hope, select a contractor.

Leaking occurs around a number of windows in the school’s academic wing during heavy rainstorms because they were not installed correctly when the building was constructed in 2000. School officials have decided that all of the improperly installed walls and windows, whether leaking yet or not, should be replaced.

The trustees had hoped to have the work done last summer. But for a variety of reasons, including bids that came in much higher than expected and the lack of a quorum at several trustees’ meetings, the project had to be put on hold.

The trustees had budgeted $244,177 for the leaky walls project last year, but the low bid last spring was more than three times that amount. Sealander told the trustees last week that his revised estimate is about $658,000, but he acknowledged that the bids could come in as much as $100,000 higher or lower.

When the project was put out for bid last spring, it called for using metal wall panels filled with foam insulation. Sealander said he is not sure whether that method or spray-on insulation covered with metal siding is the best and most cost-effective.

The trustees agreed with board member Mia Thompson’s suggestion that contractors be asked to submit two bids for the project, one for each wall insulation option.

“Why should we make a choice now, when we could have all the answers in front of us and then make an educated decision?” she said.

Big-ticket projects

Replacing the leaky walls is one of four major projects that Principal Matt Haney has identified as high priorities. The others are repaving the parking lots at an estimated cost of $600,000, rebuilding the areas on either side of the gym entrance for an estimated $100,000 and construction of a $450,000 storage building for athletic equipment near the football field and tennis courts. Because those venues are currently served by portable toilets, the proposed storage building would include restrooms.

Construction of such a building would require the approval of voters in the four MDI towns.

The cost of all four projects is estimated at about $1.8 million. A funding option that Haney and Superintendent Marc Gousse have suggested is to use the approximately $322,000 the trustees already have on hand for such projects and to take out a bond for the remaining $1.5 million.

They said the island’s taxpayers would not be on the hook for any additional money because the trustees’ annual appropriation from the four towns should be enough to cover the bond payments.

“It wouldn’t increase the tax bill by a dime,” Haney said. “The term of the loan could be roughly seven years. We would still have $72,000 per year to address unexpected items.”

Gousse said he and Haney would come back to the trustees in February with firmer cost estimates, as well as financing options, for the four big-ticket projects.

Clash over priorities

Board member Michael Sawyer strongly objected to building any new facilities such as the proposed storage and restroom building.

“From what I see, we spend way too much time talking about frills and not enough time talking about stuff that really, truly needs to be done to maintain the integrity of this facility,” he said.

Trustee Steve Hudson disagreed, saying all four items on Haney’s list are needed. Currently, some sports equipment is stored in a rented truck trailer, as well as in a small wooden shed and in the space beneath the press box at the football field.

Athletic Director Bunky Dow said mice have seriously damaged the landing mats used for pole vault and high jump events.

“I don’t want to spend $18,000 or $20,000 on a set of mats, and then two years later, they’re back to the same condition they’re in now,” Dow said.

He said a secure building also is needed for other equipment and supplies that are currently stored at various places on campus, including baseball, softball and football gear.

“It’s not a frill,” Hudson said of the proposed storage facility. “We can either build a building or we can keep buying equipment that gets damaged because there’s nowhere to store it.”

But that, Sawyer said, “doesn’t change the fact that we can’t take care of what we’ve already got.”

“We can take care of what we’ve already got,” Hudson replied.

“But we’re not doing it,” Sawyer insisted.

“Yes we are,” Hudson said. “Show me where we’re not.”

“The walls and windows is a perfect example where you just keep talking about it and nothing gets done,” Sawyer said.

Other trustees reminded him that they had just voted to solicit bids for the walls and windows project.

Trustee Rob Jordan said the board has an obligation to take care of both current and long-range facility needs. “And we can do both,” he said.

Board Chairman Sandy McFarland said, “It’s important to show the public that we care and that we maintain the facility because, if you don’t take care of your assets, they become liabilities.”

Gousse said that even with its current and future needs, the high school has excellent facilities.

“Some communities would die to be in your position,” he told the trustees.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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