Region 9 gets to work on plans for renovation

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MEXICO – A bright bouquet of blue and white mums served as a centerpiece for the Region 9 board meeting Tuesday night when members met for their first regular session since passage of a $4.9 million renovation and expansion project last week.

It was a gift from one of the vocational classes.

Now, work begins to get funding in place so the project can begin in the spring.

The board held a special meeting the day after the Jan. 9 election to confirm the vote and to begin informal discussions with the architect, Jim Reuter of the Bethel firm of Smith Reuter Lull.

Specific details on design, as well as input from the vocational school’s staff, must be gathered before a time line for going out to bid and constructing the project begins.

Reuter plans to meet with the school’s staff on Wednesday, then the board’s Facilities Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. next Wednesday, said Director David Driscoll.

The board authorized Driscoll to borrow up to $1.7 million in anticipation of the receipt of the state’s share of the project cost so that preliminary planning work can be done. The state agreed to lend $1 million in a no-interest loan and provide a grant of about $735,000.

Closure on the sale of a small parcel adjacent to the River Road school owned by the Archibald family is expected within a couple of weeks. A part of the addition, along with parking, will sit on the land.

Board Chairman Norman Clanton said plans are to complete as much of the addition as possible during the summer months. Then, students can attend classes in the new section while the existing building undergoes renovation.

Ground-breaking is expected in mid-June, said board member Craig Zurhorst.

The board plans to hold a celebratory cookout for staff, selectmen and school boards from member towns, as well as members of the community when the weather warms up.

Plans for bringing the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, making major repairs, and adding space for two new vocational programs have been under discussion for years. Those new programs will be early childhood development and automotive technology.

Nearly 58 percent of people casting votes in the 16 towns that make up Region 9 supported the $4.9 million project during the referendum.

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