In last week’s guest column by Bill Barthleman related to the South Portland High School expansion, he goes into great detail why my claims that the high school project could be cut significantly and still fix all of the accreditation issues is faulty.

The first point he makes is that my plan consists solely of numbers and there are no floor plans, no design drawings and no architect or construction firm has reviewed my plan. He is correct on that point, but what he fails to refute is that all of my calculations are based on the detail cost estimates prepared by Harriman Associates. He fails to tell you that a cost accountant at Harriman Associates prepared all the costing, not an architect. While I don’t have direct construction experience during my 30-year career as a CPA, I have many years of costing experience dealing with several hundred million dollars in real estate appraisals and cost accounting issues at two international corporations. I am very capable of doing the basic cost accounting needed to prepare a reasonable estimate of what it would cost to build the proper scaled-down version of the required high school.

He then makes claims that my square footage comparison is faulty because I am comparing schools without auditoriums to South Portland with an auditorium. He is wrong of course. My correct statement was that the average per student square feet was less than 200 square feet at the high schools built in Maine over the past 10 years and that South Portland was 50 percent greater at 300.

The facts are that at its peak enrollment of 1,022 students, the proposed South Portland High School at 307,192 square feet will be 300 square feet per student. The fact is that Mount View, Camden Hills Regional, Falmouth, Noble and Cony high schools, built in years 2000 to 2009, averaged only 182 square feet per student and every one of those schools included auditoriums. All of these projects were new construction not renovations, so I agree that a renovation will need to be slightly higher.

In 2003, Windham High School’s renovation and expansion was 191 square feet per student. Mr. Barthleman’s claim that South Portland’s square footage at 300 is in line with other schools is just wrong, like most of his claims in last week’s column.

My point from the beginning was that a 300-square-foot-per-student facility was a financially irresponsible expansion, not a renovation needed to meet accreditation issues. No one including Mr. Barthleman has proved that all of the accreditation issues could not be fixed with a $30 million project vs. the $47 million plan. To get the number down to $30 million, I eliminated about 59,000 square feet of space and had a 248,000-square-foot facility. At 248,000 square feet, the school would still be 242 square feet per student and still be much larger than any other high school built in the past 10 years.

How we get down to that lower number can be debated and many different plans could be developed to get to that number. For example, the proposed plan replaces the 65,000-square-foot annex classroom wing with a new 111,000-square-foot wing. My plan would build only a 72,000-square-foot wing, saving millions. Clearly the accreditation report justifies replacing the 65,000-square-foot annex, but nothing justifies expanding it by 46,000 square feet.

The issue is that the proponents of the proposed nearly $70 million high school expansion project (total cost with interest) do not want to build a school that is limited to the state standards that every other high school was limited to over the past 10 years. They stated that three years ago and a school board member told me that again just last week. They want more classrooms then justified by enrollment, they want “team rooms” that cost over $3 million, which state officials have stated would not be allowed due to limited utilization. They want to spend $6.7 million for a new cafeteria, even though the old one was just built in 1997 and was never mentioned as an accreditation issue. They want to spend more than $10 million to “renovate” Beal Gym, including adding 23,000 new square feet of space, which would make it significantly larger then the original proposed new gym in the 2007 plan. They want to add unnecessary teacher rooms, conference rooms and community rooms. In the end, they want the largest and most expensive high school in the state and they don’t want anyone asking why we can’t do with less.

Is my plan perfect? No. My calculations were only prepared to illustrate that this is an expansion not a renovation to meet accreditation issues. I believe that if voters are given all the facts, that most voters would conclude that the proposed plan includes millions in wasteful excessive spending. My calculation is that the wasteful amount is $27 million and I believe most reasonable informed voters would agree it includes from $25 to $30 million in excessive spending. Please get all the facts before you vote on Nov. 2.

Albert A. DiMillo Jr. lives in South Portland. He is a candidate for City Council.

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