Residents in Gray and New Gloucester will decide whether to borrow a total of $7.4 million for School Administrative District 15 facilities improvements – more than half of which would be spent on athletic fields.

Voters are facing two bond questions. One asks whether to borrow $6.6 million with $3.8 million going toward athletic fields, $2.4 million to be spent on improvements to the middle school and about $500,000 for high school science labs.

The second questions asks, if the other bond passes, whether an additional $738,000 should be spent to upgrade the main competition field to artificial turf.

The proposed projects are the result of a district-wide study of building and athletic fields approved by voters two years ago, along with the purchase of 28 acres adjacent to Gray-New Gloucester High School.

The study found water damage to the portico, a classroom space crunch and drainage problems at the middle school, outdated science labs at the high school and overused athletic fields.

If the bond is approved, the middle school would get four more classrooms, new storm drains in the parking lot and a new roof for the portico. Additional workstations and new fume hoods would be installed in the high school science labs, and a new athletic complex with six fields and a running track would be built between the middle school and high school.

If the synthetic turf is approved, the main competition field and track could be completed by next summer. If turf is not approved, the field and track wouldn’t be usable until 2017, according to the school department.

A group of residents from both towns has been speaking out against the bonds.

One of them, Colette Tweten of Gray, said the latest school budget came with a significant tax increase and property owners can’t afford to take on such a big bond. Also, she said, with a “C” average on the state’s school grading system, the district should be using its resources on classroom instruction, not sports. “The sports complex, we just think, is excessive,” she said.

School officials insist that new athletic fields, like the other projects, are a necessity.

“The projects, renovations and upgrades are included because they meet the needs of the two communities,” Superintendent Bruce Beasley said in a message to the residents of the two towns.

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