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SAD 41 could bring forward another referendum on Penquis Valley upgrades

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MILO — Last spring a referendum on an approximate $2.3 million funding package for a heating system upgrade, converting from steam to hot water, and energy efficiency project at the Penquis Valley School was voted down via a count of 166 to 111 across the four SAD 41 communities. The combined tally between Brownville, LaGrange, and Milo was 106 yes votes to 42 no votes, while in Atkinson the question was voted down 114 to 5 to result in the 166-111 overall tally.

In the months since district officials have been discussing what to do next, and during a Nov. 7 meeting the possibility of a referendum without Atkinson was brought up.

The day before Atkinson residents approved a pair of referendum questions in their town. The first asked if residents would favor withdrawing from SAD 41, and this passed 193 to 12. The second asked if citizens favor deorganizing, and the second question passed 187-19 as Atkinson is now set to become part of the Piscataquis County unorganized territory as of July 1, 2019.

As part of the unorganized territory, students from Atkinson would head west to RSU 68/Foxcroft Academy in Dover-Foxcroft.

“One of the issues is what do we do now and between when Atkinson withdraws at the end of the school year, they are part of the vote,” Wright said. Atkinson would be responsible for an approximate 10.4 percent proportional share of any debt incurred while it is still part of the district even after voting to deorganize.

He said SAD 41 officials would like to bring a plan for the Penquis Valley School forward, but waiting until after June 30 would delay any possible projects beyond next summer.

“We have talked to our attorney and they said it’s legal and Atkinson’s talked with their attorney,” Wright said about the potential for a referendum in only Brownville, LaGrange, and Milo, with Atkinson not liable for any debt associated with a project being voted on at the polls.

The superintendent said he will be conducting more research and should have something to bring forward to the December school board meeting.

“We need to have something and I think it’s a workable solution,” Board Chair Roberta Trefts said. “We need to get something done.”

One idea is the installation of heat pumps in the building, and this was discussed during a capital improvement meeting before the school board session with more research to come.

In other business, appointments have been made for the 2018-19 winter sports coaches. Jason Mills will be head coach of the boys basketball team and Dawn McLaughlin will lead the girls basketball squad. Tammy Murano will serve as the cheering coach.

For the middle school, Crystal Cail will be the boys basketball head coach, Tony Heal will coach girls basketball, and Amanda Beckwith will lead the cheering squad.

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