MINOT — School officials explained to residents Tuesday night why they
decided to spend money on plumbing and electrical systems at the Minot
Consolidated School.

In April, the School Committee approved renovating two of the
school’s three sets of bathrooms and replacing outdated portions of the
electrical system.

A week ago, selectmen received a bill from the plumber for $8,000
with a note from school Principal Margaret Pitts indicating there was
more to come.

This was news to selectmen, and when Budget Committee member Emily
Tuttle told them she had just learned that the school was planning to
do about $30,000 worth of work on the bathrooms, selectmen wondered why
school officials hadn’t brought the problem up during school budget
discussions, if it was such a priority.

During the past week school officials have provided information on
the school’s capital improvement plan, as well as contracts and some
invoices associated with the renovations under way at the school, to
selectmen and Budget Committee members.

At Tuesday night’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent Dennis
Duquette said the estimated total costs of renovations is $60,000.

Duquette explained that schools in Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland
are having necessary work done using available money. With the July
start of the Regional School Unit 16, any money left in fund balance
will revert to the towns. However, as the new school system begins
operation with no money for capital improvements, it could be a long
time before problems could be addressed, he said.

Responding to Selectman Dean Campbell’s complaint that the usual
process for discussing capital improvements had been circumvented,
Duquette had admitted it was a mistake not to have informed town
officials.

Duquette also noted that with Minot being part of the new
consolidated system on July 1, the formal process of school budget
review will change: capital improvement projects will no longer be
reviewed by the town budget committee or debated at town meeting.

“But with this change to an RSU, I don’t want to lose contact with
the selectmen and Budget Committee. I intend to continue to throw out
ideas to them,” Duquette said.

He vowed to attend selectmen’s meetings regularly.

Budget Committee member Matt Callahan said that the whole uproar was
about communication, or the failure thereof, and noted that as the
budget for the school year ending June 30 is the last the Budget
Committee will have any real say on, the Budget Committee should at
least have had a letter.

“Even a ‘by the way, we’re spending $60,000,'” Callahan said.

Tuttle thanked Unit 16 business manager Rick Kusturin for providing
information about the project and noted that with the shift to the
consolidated school system and the elimination of the town budget
committee review, Minot’s representatives on the Unit 16 committee bore
greater responsibility as eyes and ears for the town in school matters.


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