SAD 41 wants to upgrade Milo Elementary air system through state renovation fund

MILO — Following last month’s affirmative 182-131 referendum vote, SAD 41 will soon start an approximate $935,000 Revolving Renovation Fund project for the upgrades to the air system at the Milo Elementary School. 

The project would be funded in large part through the Maine Department of Education’s Revolving Renovation Fund, and a request for proposals will be sent out soon.

“Tonight the board has to approve what the public approved,” Superintendent Michael Wright said during a school board meeting at the Penquis Valley School on July 13. The directors signed the paperwork for the Revolving Renovation Fund as well as the approved $10,818,490 2022-23 budget.

Under the Revolving Renovation Fund, 70 percent of costs are forgiven and SAD 41 would pay back 30 percent interest-free over 10 years (a $670,000/$280,000 split). This would equal about $28,000 annually to be paid by the district for a decade, and would be built into future budgets.

SAD 41 has utilized the school Revolving Renovation Fund in years past. In 2017, SAD 41 residents approved an approximate $474,000 loan for a sprinkler system and elevator at Penquis Valley.

“We can take other monies and apply them in different places,” Wright said last month, mentioning that COVID-related grants are being used for various purposes across the SAD 41 schools.

Business Manager Heidi Sisco said COVID-19 funds cannot be used to pay for part of the 30 percent portion of Revolving Renovation Fund monies.

In other business, Wright said he and representatives from three other area school districts met with the Maine Department of Education in the spring on the regional comprehensive high school project. 

The local districts, SAD 41, SAD 4 of Guilford, the Dexter-based SAD 46, and RSU 64 of Corinth, will need to cover the costs of an engineering study and other planning efforts before they can get the $100 million in state funding to build the project. The school would be voted on via referendum should progress be made to determine a facility somewhere in the region.

Wright mentioned a ballpark figure of $800,000 for these efforts, which include hiring an architect and the site selection process. 

“Where we are right now is we put out an RFP to see what an architect cost,” he said.

The superintendent said even if a bid came in below the estimate, such as $500,000, this cost would still need to be divided four ways. A four-way split of $500,000 would give each district a $125,000 expense not included in its budget, for a project that may not end up coming to fruition.

Wright said he is not optimistic, referring to the project as being on life support, but he said he and others involved will see what happens.

The $100 million secondary institution would be the first of its kind in the state. It would be a community school district to be governed by 12 directors — three from each school unit who all come from the local boards. The regional high school would be integrated with a career and technical school along with the University of Maine System and the Maine Community College System, and it would support industry training programs, according to a description on the DOE website.

The current school units would remain to oversee pre-K to grade eight education in the respective districts.

Wright also said he met with Milo Police Chief Nick Clukey earlier in the week to discuss the idea of having a school resource officer in SAD 41. 

“It’s just a beginning discussion,” the superintendent said. “We don’t have anything in place yet, but we’re going to bring back some ideas on how that might work.”

Wright said Clukey has also been talking with building principals on individual campus security matters.

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