JAY — RSU 73 Superintendent Robert Wall announced at Tuesday night’s public hearing on a proposed $1.8 million renovation-and-reuse project at Spruce Mountain High School that he received word from the state that 41 percent of the cost of the project was approved at very low or no interest.

“That will save us $250,000 in interest,” he said.

With the state’s Quality School Construction Bond providing virtually no interest on $745,238 of the total $1.8 million, interest on the remaining amount from the Maine Bond Bank will likely be at a competitively low rate as well.

He said debt payments will likely increase for the district during the first four years, then decline in 2018 when the Spruce Mountain Middle School project is paid off, then decrease even more in 2020 when Livermore Elementary School is paid off.

Cost savings from operating one high school rather than two high schools will offset some of the additional debt, Wall said.

The proposed renovation project will be voted at referendum on Jan. 15 at the Jay Community Building, and at the town offices of Livermore and Livermore Falls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. An election validation meeting of the RSU 73 board takes place at 6 p.m. at the Cedar Street Central Office in Livermore Falls on Jan. 17.

The project is needed to accommodate all 500 high school students from the north campus in Jay and the south campus in Livermore Falls. The academic section of the Livermore Falls school will be closed. The gym and cafeteria will remain in use, partly by the Spruce Mountain Adult Education Program, and by others yet to be determined.

About 40 people turned out for the public hearing.

Wall emphasized the security needs of the schools, adding that a security office will be built near the entrance to SMHS, Jay campus, and an enclosed connector between the high school and the adjacent middle school will be built as part of the renovation project with camera surveillance. Security cameras are planned throughout the high and middle school complex. Also, he said during the budget development process, soon to begin, he will ask that a full-time police officer be assigned to the complex.

Currently, a part-time security officer from the Jay Police Department visits the school regularly.

Other security and surveillance measures are also being planned during the renovation project that he declined to disclose during the hearing. He added that additional security measures are being looked into for the two elementary schools.

The renovation and reuse project includes reconfiguring several large classrooms into five or more smaller classrooms at SMHS, sharing some space with SMMS, and a major renovation of the bottom floor of the Jay Community Building into classrooms, offices, storage areas and bathrooms.

“We’ve heard over and over from the community that they want to use the existing space. Everyone has been trying very hard to meet all the needs of the students and the community,” board Chairwoman Denise Rodzen said.

“This is a good project for the numbers of students we have,” Wall said.

If voters don’t approve the renovation-and-reuse project, Wall said the district’s only alternative is to rent portable classrooms. He said leasing one, six-classroom unit and one four-classroom portable would cost the district $131,000 a year, and would not lead to ownership, nor would the same level of security be possible.

Residents voted down a $5.3 million addition onto SMHS, north campus, in May.

The Jay School Department and RSU 36, Livermore Falls, consolidated in 2011.