State to reopen school renovation fund

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For the first time in three years, the state has opened its Revolving Renovation Fund to new applications, allowing schools to apply for help fixing roofs, removing asbestos and addressing other health and safety issues. Projects will be ranked and prioritized, with the state helping to pay for about $10 million worth of projects.

The news has come as a pleasant surprise to some school leaders. They didn’t think the state would have the money to open the fund this year.

“This is exciting news,” said Jude Cyr, business manager for the Auburn school system. 

Applications will be taken now through June 30. Both Lewiston and Auburn officials  say they’ll apply for money, which is part grant and part no-interest loan.

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Although no decisions have been made yet, Cyr said the Auburn school system could consider applying for help with air quality issues at the Walton and Fairview elementary schools. It could also ask for help replacing exterior security lighting at Auburn Middle School and installing an elevator at Franklin Alternative School so the building could comply the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

“We certainly have some ideas,” Cyr said.

In Lewiston, Superintendent Leon Levesque said the school system could consider applying for help with asbestos issues, including those at Montello Elementary School. 

“We’re still looking at it right now,” he said.  

The Legislature created the Revolving Renovation Fund in 1998 to address the large number of Maine schools that were outdated or falling apart. If a school system’s project is approved and ranks high enough on the priority list, the school system receives funding. Depending on a community’s financial situation, between 30 and 70 percent of that money is a grant. The remainder is an interest-free loan to be repaid over five to 10 years.

Loan repayments are funneled back into the Revolving Renovation Fund, which is why the state has $10 million to distribute now.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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