Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics on Monday presents to the Planning Board Gorham School Department plans for modular buildings to expand Narragansett School while Norm Justice, school facilities director, looks on. Robert Lowell/American Journal

GORHAM — An amended site plan to expand Narragansett Elementary School by adding modular buildings for classroom space and a cafeteria passed unanimously at Monday’s Planning Board meeting.

But changes the School Department made from original plans presented to voters raised concerns for one town councilor.

School officials said they will have to move the modulars from the site indicated on original plans due to the location of underground electrical cables owned by Central Maine Power.

At the Planning Board meeting, Owens McCullough of Sebago Technics also presented the School Department with plans that now include a new emergency access road about 590 feet in length, 16 feet wide with 2-foot shoulders that was also not in the original plan.

The school district is bracing for projected enrollment increases at its three elementary schools. In response, voters in June approved borrowing up to $2.8 million to expand Narragansett School.

According to Monday’s Planning Board agenda, 12 classrooms and a cafeteria were approved. A modular 72 by 112 feet would house six classrooms and another, 56 by 56 feet, would house a cafeteria.


Both modulars have been ordered. The School Department earlier this week didn’t have a cost estimate for the emergency access road. School Committee Chairman Darryl Wright told town councilors Tuesday that bids are due Thursday on-site work and said bids could be awarded next week in a special School Committee meeting.

Classes could start in the modular buildings next fall. “We’re anxious to get started,” Justice said Monday about construction.

Six additional classrooms in a third modular was also approved for a potential second phase of the project. The revamped plan also added an emergency access road. The entire plan was approved by 4-0 vote, with Molly Butler Bailey and Michael Richman absent.

But Town Councilor Paul Smith, speaking at Monday’s meeting, said he has heard from constituents who are not happy about the amended plan. “This isn’t the plan they (the public) voted on,” Smith said.

The original plans presented to the public before the referendum were to install modular buildings at the left rear of the school.

“We had to move the originally planned location for the modulars to the center part of the building because CMP did not allow us to put the modulars on the original location due to the location of their underground lines,” Superintendent Heather Perry said in an email to the American Journal last week.


CMP spokeswoman Catharine Hartnett confirmed Tuesday that a company representative did walk the property with “school folks” in July. Hartnett said there is 750 feet of feed into the school. “You can’t build on underground lines,” Hartnett said.

Phil Gagnon, a former town councilor who has taken out nomination papers for Town Council and School Committee, said in Tuesday’s Town Council meeting his “biggest irritation” with utilizing a modular plan for expansion is “it seems rushed.” Gagnon pointed out the new plan was developed in a month.

The School Department’s facility director, Norm Justice, said Monday the School Committee would determine whether the revamped plan meets expectation.

“Like any municipal department project, the School Department will need to be as true as is practically possible to what was presented to the voters,” Town Manager Ephrem Paraschak said Tuesday in an email to the paper.

It’s unclear whether the Town Council, which sent the referendum to voters, could intervene. “The Town Council does have authority to control the issuance of bonds,” Paraschak said.

“No bonds have been issued yet, nor has the Council directed staff to secure any specific types of funding,” he said.

Smith said Tuesday in a telephone interview that it is a municipal bond for a school building. “We’re running the bond not the School Department,” Smith said.

George Fox, Planning Board chairman, asked Community Development Director Tom Poirier Monday whether the board had received any guidelines from the Town Council about the project. “I don’t think so,” Poirier replied.

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