News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, March 16, 2017
BHCS requests $1.5 million bond for fire safety, major renovations

by Anne Berleant

The results of a 2014 facilities assessment of Blue Hill Consolidated School has grown into a $1.5 million bond request to voters.

Selectmen, the budget committee, and the school board are recommending a “yes” vote at town meeting April 8.

The total cost of bringing the school up to safety and fire codes, creating additional classroom space, repaving the entry and parking lot, gymnasium repairs, and computer wiring system upgrades is projected at just over $2 million. As proposed, the gap between the bond and the total cost will be covered by a $330,000 combination renovation loan and grant awarded by the state in 2016, and $200,000 in municipal surplus funds from overpayment of property taxes in 2015 and 2016.

At a March 8 public hearing, school board chairman Jan Snow and architect Matthew Carter of Bangor outlined the expanded project. Carter, who works with Brewer engineering firm CES, Inc., selected by the board to head the renovation project, said he began with the initial assessment completed by James W. Sewall Company. However, the project had grown in scope since then, sparked in part by a code study, standard architectural procedure when reviewing a new renovation, Carter said.

Safety, space and paving
The $2,090,000 project addresses three issues facing the school: safety, expanding enrollment, and a parking lot badly in need of repair and repaving.

Noncompliance with fire safety codes discovered during Carter’s code search were “simultaneously and individually verified by the fire marshal,” he said. The state fire marshal’s visit was required when BHCS began a YMCA-hosted after-school care program.

Installing a sprinkler system and addressing other fire code deficiencies comes at a cost of about $450,000 but will ensure that the building remains up to code into the future, Carter said. Bringing the building up to the current code, without the sprinkler system, would cost about $100,000 less. The building has apparently been in violation for about a decade after changes in the fire code.

“This is not about saving the building but saving the people,” Carter said, detailing fire separation between rooms, wall thicknesses and fire door requirements.

“Who’s responsible for making sure we’re up to code?” Scott Miller asked. Snow said that insurance reviews usually alerted the board to code deficiencies.

The proposal to create more classroom space includes reconfiguring the library mezzanine and moving the tech center into space not well used—first floor locker rooms—for about $304,000. Reconfiguring the special education space has a price tag of $96,000, and another $60,000 or so would be used to reconfigure storage, classroom and bathroom space on first and second floor classrooms.

A major parking lot repaving project is estimated at $359,000, and also addresses safety concerns.

Other proposed renovations include installing a computer system wiring upgrade and insulating the second floor for $80,000. Finally, repairs to the gym floor, replacing the bleachers, and addressing the moisture problem in the gym crawlspace adds about $77,000. Engineering and architectural fees, a bid contingency and construction contingency and administrative costs total about $500,000.

Snow and Superintendent Mark Hurvitt approached Blue Hill Selectmen last month, outlining the range of issues, and received their approval.

“Why not package it up and get it done,” Chairman John Bannister recently said. “It will cost the same, or cheaper, than [doing it] piecemeal.”