Lewiston voters to decide middle school referendum Tuesday

LEWISTON — Lewiston voters will decide Tuesday whether the Lewiston Middle School, originally built as Lewiston High School in 1933, will get $9.1 million worth of improvements.

Bonnie Washuk/Sun Journal

Lewiston voters will decide in a referendum Tuesday whether to approve a $9.1 million bond to improve and expand Lewiston Middle School. The brick school, originally built in the 1930s as a high school, is beautiful on the outside, but worn and dingy inside, and is too small for the growing number of students, officials say. Voting will be from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Multi-Purpose Building, 145 Birch St.

Go and do

WHAT: Lewiston referendum on $9.1 million bond to improve Lewiston Middle School

WHERE: Multi-Purpose Building, 145 Birch St.

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 10

Voting will be held at the Multi-Purpose Building, 145 Birch St., from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 10.

The classic red brick building has never had a major facelift, but is structurally sound and has “good bones,” according to architects.

It looks beautiful on the outside, but on the inside is worn and dingy. Holes in the plaster are common, as is peeling paint from water damage. The bathrooms have never been updated and despite being cleaned, some smell of urine.

The building lacks ventilation. A web of wires run up and across walls for things that came after the building was built, such as computer and phone systems. A growing enrollment means the building lacks enough space for classrooms, the library and cafeteria, Principal Shawn Chabot said.

If the referendum is passed, the school would get building and safety upgrades, including a sprinkler system in areas where none exist, classroom ventilation and renovated bathrooms. An additional 11,000 square feet would allow for about 10 more classrooms, a larger library and cafeteria, and moving the principal and front office from the second to the first floor where the public enters.

The School Department assumed eventually a new middle school would be built, “and trying to be good stewards we didn't want to spend money on a building that wouldn't be used,” Chabot said in June. Since no replacement building is in sight, “we need to reinvest.”

A new middle school could cost $50 million or more.

The school's enrollment is now 700. "We're maxed," Chabot said. Next year enrollment is expected to grow to 750, and to 800 by 2017.

The bond would be paid for by local property taxpayers without state school construction money. City officials estimated the middle school improvements would cost about $25 more in annual property taxes for a home valued at $100,000, or $37.50 a year for a home assessed at $150,000. That cost would go down, City Administrator Ed Barrett said, as the loan matured and if Lewiston received more from the state for education.

School Superintendent Bill Webster expects the impact on taxpayers to be less. Schools receive more state education dollars when enrollment grows, and Lewiston's enrollment is growing, he said.

The July vote is the first time Lewiston has held a referendum in the summer, City Clerk Kathy Montejo said. It may not help attract a good turnout.

“We've only issued 34 absentee ballots,” Montejo said Friday. Voter turnout could be as low as what Lewiston receives for the annual school budget approval every May, which is “pretty low” with some 400 to 500 voters, or 1.5 percent of those registered.

Webster has sent a “please vote on July 10” letter to every Lewiston household. The School Department also held a June 21 open house allowing the public to come inside and inspect the school.

A common question Montejo has heard is why didn't the city hold the referendum during the recent June state primary election.

“Timing-wise it didn't match up,” she said. The middle school bond question was approved for referendum by the City Council in May. To get on the June primary ballot, Montejo would have had to send in the information 45 days before, or in April, she said.

Montejo wants residents to remember the middle school vote is this Tuesday. “If they're out and about, swing in and vote." There's only one question on the ballot, Montejo said. “It'll just take a minute.”

bwashuk@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

PLEASE VOTE YES

Please take the time to vote YES tomorrow. Our Middle School is in dire need of basic renovations to bring it up to date to serve our student population. These aren't cosmetic fixes, nor are they due to lack of maintenance, implying so is truly ridiculous. The school is OLD but solid. It just needs to be brought up to code to provide a healthier and safer learning environment. More room is needed as well and it seems to me that this is the most cost-effective approach to the problem.

 's picture

why no

We just built a new kids school opened less then 24 months ago.
for the millions we spent no one had the forsight to build big enough.

2nd reason to vote no. no state of federal matching funds. wait one or 2 more years.

3rd reson a lot of the listed reasons for a new school seemed to be lack of maintance. I would not reward a lack of maintance.

9 million is a lot for new bathrooms

 's picture

Yes, Lewiston built a new

Yes, Lewiston built a new school less then 24 months ago, but since it is a elementary school I am unsure how it would apply in this case.

No matching federal or state funds and waiting, these kids are complaining about what I seen when I attended there a decade ago. Some parents remember a time when they complained about the same thing only decade + ago. Just based off that alone I think Lewiston has waited long enough.

As for maintance, you are correct it seems to have been poorly maintained, but with this continually being brought up, why hasn't changes such as these been done sooner? Could have been continually shot down by people not wanting to spend a couple million at the time, which in the long run has cost even more. Even if you were to get a maintance crew you'd need more then one or two just to keep the building in fair condition.

"An additional 11,000 square feet would allow for about 10 more classrooms, a larger library and cafeteria" Doesn't seem like just new bathrooms to me.

 's picture

Politics an slight of hand

Why a July vote,
When there is only that question on the ballot.
because it is easier for to stack the vote to win.

Whats the cost of a special election alone?
Please folks vote NO on this one

 's picture

You complain about a

You complain about a "special" election, but voice no actual opposition to why people should vote no. So, why should they Mr. Robitaille? People always say children are the future, so why would you want to hinder any attempt at allowing people to excel?

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