OXFORD — The Oxford Hills School District Board of Directors voted Monday night to reject about $1.5 million from the state to pay for renovations and upgrades in school buildings.

“The board felt like this wasn’t a good time,” Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

Instead, the board approved adding $12,000 to the 2013-14 budget to upgrade fire alarm systems at the Oxford, Harrison, Norway, Waterford and West Paris (Agnes Gray) elementary schools and at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris. The systems will have digital fire alarm dialers installed.

Colpitts said the board felt it was asking a lot of the local communities to raise more money at a time when budget figures are still uncertain. The board may reapply for the money in two years.

The vote was taken on the recommendation of the Budget/Operations Committee, which voted 10-1 March 20 against the endorsement to accept the money.

The funding was approved in November 2012, but the board decided to hold off on a vote until the new fiscal year budget implications became clearer.

The money was for 13 projects, including almost $500,000 for the Oxford Hills Middle School in Paris to address indoor air quality and handicap accessibility issues. The Agnes Gray Elementary School received approval for $801,005 to address handicap accessibility issues.

Colpitts said earlier this year that all the school buildings currently meet code and are considered safe by the state, because most are “grandfathered” from current building codes.

“There are no significant life-safety issues” in the buildings slated to receive money, he said.

Facilities Director Dave Marshall explained Wednesday that the Oxford Hills Middle School, for example,  has an elevator that works fine, but is considered too small to turn a wheelchair around under current building code.

“It works,” he said. “It’s inspected every year by the state. Is it perfect? No. Is it safe? Yes.”

The School Revolving Renovation Fund was created by the state Legislature in 1998 to address critical needs of school facilities and ensure students have a safe, healthy and appropriate learning environment. It is administered by the Department of Education and is funded through the Maine Municipal Bond Bank.

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OXFORD — The Oxford Hills School Board of Directors reviewed the proposed $35.8 million budget for 2013-14 Monday night and will vote on it in May.

Budget hearings have been held for Oxford, Otisfield, Norway and Paris residents.

A hearing for West Paris and Hebron residents is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 24 at the Agnes Gray Elementary School in West Paris.

A hearing for Waterford and Harrison residents is set for 7 p.m. April 25 at Waterford Memorial School.

Residents of any district town are encouraged to attend either of the hearings.  

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