FREEPORT – Town councilors voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse a nearly $17 million renovation of Freeport High School that is scheduled to go before voters in June.

While it doesn’t guarantee voters’ approval, the endorsement is a sign of community support for the plan that, by one councilor’s judgment, is the largest expenditure in the town’s recent history.

“I’ve been struggling with this all week,” said Councilor Richard DeGrandpre during Tuesday’s meeting.

He cited the cost to property owners, whose tax rate would jump to pay for bonds that would fund the expansive renovations and upgrades.

DeGrandpre estimated that the project would add 70 cents to the town’s current tax rate of $15.45 per $1,000 valuation – about $175 a year on the tax bill for a home assessed at $250,000.

If approved by voters, the project’s $16.9 million cost will be divided proportionally among taxpayers in Freeport, Pownal and Durham, whose students attend schools in the regional district that was formed four years ago.

Pownal’s selectmen heard a presentation about the plan Monday.

The plan calls for a reorganization of the high school and its campus and the addition of classroom space and parking spaces. It also would bring existing facilities into compliance with accessibility laws.

Other improvements would add an outdoor running track and upgrade and reconfigure playing fields. The school is one of three of its size in Maine that don’t have a track.

The renovations would also make way for permanent classrooms for special education, which now are in a double-wide trailer.

In addition to wanting better facilities, students, administrators and parents have complained of overcrowding at Freeport High. Enrollment is expected to grow from 540 this year to 688 in a decade, according to the school.

Councilor Andy Wellen said at Tuesday’s meeting that the structural upgrades deserve the town’s support. “There are aspects of this project that are just essential,” he said.

 

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

mbyrne@pressherald.com