After a failed referendum in November 2007, the Scarborough Board of Education will again ask voters in 2009 to replace the half-century old Wentworth Intermediate School.

The board voted June 19 to hire Harriman Associates of Auburn to evaluate the current building, weigh renovation versus replacement, and come up with preliminary plans for the more cost-effective option.

The school district is revisiting the issue after a dual referendum to build an addition to the middle school and replace Wentworth, at a combined cost of about $55 million, failed at the polls last year.

“We are back to the drawing board,” said Superintendent David Doyle.

Due to the failure of last year’s referendum and a decrease in projected enrollment, the new proposal calls for design of an intermediate school to accommodate 700 children, roughly the current population of Wentworth, and not the 900 in last year’s proposal.

However, due to inflation and increased energy costs, it’s still expected to cost about the same – $35 million – to replace Wentworth if the next referendum is approved by voters.

Doyle said the architectural firm will begin preliminary work this summer, and the School Board will likely appoint a building committee to work closely with the firm in November or December. School officials hope to have a project approved by the School Board and Town Council by November 2009.

However, Doyle said, a poor economic climate could slow the timeline.

“There is concern on the board that if conditions are not good, it is a good chunk to bite off even though the building is in need of replacement in our view,” he said.

The architects will be asked to evaluate whether the building could be renovated instead of replaced, Doyle said. However, he said, past study has shown the roughly 50-year-old building would be difficult to upgrade.

“(The) infrastructure, electric, heating, ventilation, (many) parts of it are so old we have to jury rig when we have to repair it,” he said. “It’s getting to be a tired building.”

Doyle said architecture costs for the entire project will be $244,000 over several years. The first stage of work, evaluating the current building and the district’s needs, and coming up with a conceptual rendering of a new building, will cost about $82,000.

The district did not put the architectural contract out to bid because fees are already set by the Department of Education, Doyle said, and the district had selected Harriman Associates for past projects after a competitive bid process, including designing Scarborough High School.

Doyle said the board currently does not have any plans to ask voters again for a middle school addition.

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