Support voiced for Rockland area school construction bond

By Stephen Betts | Feb 17, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts Fewer than 30 people turned out Thursday night, Feb. 16 on a public hearing for the proposed $23.2 million bond referendum for RSU 13 construction.

Rockland — By the end of a Thursday night hearing, even a longtime critic of government spending voiced support for a $23.2 million borrowing package to finance construction in the Rockland area school district.

Fewer than 30 people turned out for the Feb. 16 public hearing held at Oceanside High School auditorium on the bond package that will go to a vote Feb. 28 at the polls throughout Regional School Unit 13.

Stephen Carroll of Rockland -- who has for years voiced criticism of school, municipal and county spending -- praised the district for the plan it has developed.

"I've studied this issue and commend the school board and finance department. This makes a lot of sense to reduce your building footprint," Carroll said.

The financing would pay for construction of a new school on the grounds of the Owls Head Central School to serve students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, add a classroom wing and renovate Oceanside Middle School in Thomaston, and an addition and extensive renovations to Oceanside High School in Rockland.

The vote is Feb. 28 with polls open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Rockland, Thomaston, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing. Absentee ballots are already available at the municipal offices.

RSU 13 Board member Thomas Peaco of Rockland said the construction package was a proactive move by the district.

"We're not saving money by not passing this. We risk spending more for rapidly aging buildings," Peaco said. "This is a wise thing to do."

Superintendent John McDonald said he plans on remaining in the district for a long time, "unless he hits a moose on the way home" and is confident in the financial projections that this will not be a shock to the budget.

Business Manager Peter Orne detailed the cost of the project and the savings from closing older buildings. In the end, the savings will offset the cost of the repayment of the borrowing for the construction projects, he said.

The Gilford Butler School would be offered to South Thomaston and the current Owls Head Central School would be demolished upon completion of the new elementary school. The district has already offered the McLain School to the city. The district will be moving out of the McLain School this summer.

Orne and McDonald pointed out that savings will come from less maintenance and reduced energy use, as well as greater efficiencies for staff. Currently, teachers in programs such as music and art must travel between schools. At the middle school, sixth-graders are driven to Thomaston each day for allied arts programs, such as music and industrial technology. That travel costs time and money, school officials said.

The package would also create a single regional middle school, administrators noted.

No opposition was voiced at the Thursday night public hearing. Three staff members, however, questioned whether the addition at the middle school in Thomaston would be large enough to accommodate staff and programs such as music and art.

The superintendent encouraged those teachers to serve on the building committee that is being formed to help shape the details of the building work.

The package of construction also includes the possibility of a bus garage on the grounds of the middle school. McDonald said, however, that the owner of the bus garage in Thomaston that the district leases has contacted the district and there have been talks about that property.

Orne acknowledged that the district is re-considering whether a bus garage at the middle school is the best location.

Comments (7)
Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 19, 2017 12:51

Get his:  in the "disappearing ads" section, there is this push to vote Yes for the Bond Special Election claiming that passage would add an Academic Academy model at Oceanside, see the adoption of Inquiry-Based Science Curriculum, and a fully-endorsed Gifted and Talented program.  What has this to do with $23+ million Bond referendum of February 28?  What can the costs possibly be, in realty, for offering what should be a "normal" curriculum, but making it sound as though without the passage of the Bond referendum, these things won't happen?  And there is no mention on that special Citizens for Schools of Our Future ad of construction.    The other benefit of calling things by many different names, perhaps?

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 19, 2017 12:16

RSU 13 has this article on the Facebook page, along with the Village Soup endorsement urging the Bond to be passed.  I only went to Facebook page because I could not find the dates of the current vacation on the Home page.  Looking at the Facebook page as best I can given that I am not a Facebook member, it doesn't emphasize curriculum or students;  what it does is reprint Village Soup articles pertaining, all of which favor expenditure, s far as I can tell.  Almost the only way to know that anyone disagreed with expenditures would be to follow the links to the newspaper, and then, to read, reader Comments.


This flurry of RSU 13 activity on my part started this morning because, even for a Sunday, it is dead quiet on the street.  Then, it occurred to me that this might be a week-long, or two-week long school vacation for RSU 13. I still don't know.  Is there a secret Tab to access for this information.  In any event, I experienced a few minutes of panic where I considered that residents had left on vacation, didn't vote Absentee, and would not be voting - at all - on the Bond issue.  How many Absentee ballots would have been cast, and, if RSU 13's Facebook is the messenger, than it is completely biased, and that's not a great way to educate anyone.  Do students depend greatly on the RSU 13 Facebook page, or is there yet another, special communication method that they utilize?  I consider the multiple layers of conveying bits of information to be directly obstructionist.  It is not easy, contrary to the "public face" of RSU 13, to be 100% up to date on current information.  Between the RSU 13 website and Facebook page, and the flat-out support of this newspaper for the Bond, the thing is sure to pass, isn't it.



Posted by: David E Myslabodski | Feb 18, 2017 20:43

This project will not increase taxes . . . .

If we all behave Santa will bring us many, many presents next Christmas . . . .

Will RSU 13 board sign a guarantee that the $23.2 Million figure is the final figure and that there will be no cost overruns and also guarantee the promised savings?

Then again, this seems to be more and agenda than a project for the benefit of Rockland kids


Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 18, 2017 11:59

PS  Mr. Carroll's adamant perspective remains under 'Discussion', which of course, few people see with the reformatting, but it's there.   People can have a change of opinion, moments, even, after stating a position, based on new knowledge at the best end of the spectrum, or undue influence at the worst.  Here, a reporting choice?

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 18, 2017 11:36

Given Mr. Carroll's statement regarding pertinent omissions in the writing of this article, it would appear that his words were selected to advance an agenda..  In August of 2016, Stephen Betts, writing for the Bangor Daily News, wrote:  "The amount of money going to Regional School Unit 13 accounts for a majority of the property taxes in Rockland. Of the $16.9 million that Rockland will be raising in property taxes, $8.8 million, or 52 percent, will go to the school district. That amount for schools is about $60,000 more than last year"


Despite the embarrassing School Board mess of the other year, and, what I understood to be a pledge on the part of the District and School Board members to not only calm the waters but to keep residents better informed, I have seen no evidence of it; certainly not in the form of regular, direct communication from either.

Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Feb 18, 2017 08:24

While it is true that I often speak out when budgets are increased, this consolidation package does NOT increase spending.  It is financed by savings incurred by reducing the number of buildings and the associated costs of maintaining them.  I believe after becoming more informed about this project that the board is simply doing what the public asked.  The portion of my comments that were omitted from todays story was my concern as to just who was paying the bill.  Yes I agree we need this and that inaction will ultimately  coast the district just as much, BUT can we afford it ?  My comments (that were also omitted ) were where is the state funding in all of this and why are they not ponying up their fair share.  That question, of course, could not be answered.

Posted by: Maggie Trout | Feb 17, 2017 21:49

I thought I'd imagined Mr. Carroll's comments of February 8th and 12th, but I didn't.  What changed so drastically within days?  Was there profoundly important information that was given at the Thursday night hearing that was not referenced?

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