An architect’s rendering of what South Portland’s new middle school could look like. Courtesy WBRC Architects-Engineers

SOUTH PORTLAND — City councilors on Tuesday gave unanimous first approval to two borrowing proposals for construction of a new middle school.

If the plans are approved at a second and final reading Aug. 27 the bond issues will head to referendum Nov. 5.

The proposed cost of the project, including traffic improvements, is $71.5 million, which includes $59.2 million in state funding.

One bond package for $69.3 million would build the school – although only $10 million would be raised locally – while the second seeks another $2.3 million in local funding for related transportation and pedestrian improvements.

The $2.3 million would be earmarked for three projects: $1.4 million for a Westbrook Street multi-use path from Westcott Street to Redbank; $625,000 for Broadway corridor pedestrian improvements, and $200,000 for traffic signals.

The decision to split the project into two proposals was made during a workshop July 23 after several councilors said separating them could help reduce the likelihood that voters would reject the entire project.

City Finance Director Greg L’Heureaux said the bond debt service is estimated at $14.3 million, to be paid over 20 years, and could add at least 6 cents to the property tax rate.

The new building would replace the city’s two middle schools, Mahoney and Memorial, and be built on the site of Memorial Middle School on Wescott Road. The existing schools have health and safety issues, asbestos problems, inadequate ventilation and electrical problems.

Residents first approved the location of the school by a 151-49 vote a year ago and approved the concept design for the middle school in a 95-2 straw poll vote June 2. On July 10, the State Board of Education unanimously approved the concept.

If the bonding is approved Nov. 5, the timeline approved by the state says the final design documents will be completed by April 2020 and the project will go out to bid in December 2020.

Final funding will require approval from the commissioner of the Department of Education in the fall of 2021. Project completion is projected for September 2023.

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