GRAY — The RSU 15 school board voted 9-1 Wednesday to send a $7.2 million bond package on renovation and construction of the district’s schools and athletic fields to Gray and New Gloucester voters on Nov. 4.

But before they passed the bond, directors got an earful of protest and opinions from roughly 30 people attending the special meeting.

Gray resident Sandra McDonald asked whether the bond to renovate the middle, high school and an elementary school would be separated into two votes, one on school projects and the other on athletic fields.

The board voted down that idea, saying academic and co-curricular projects are a unified recommendation for the district.

The board, citing that the fields could be in constant play without maintenance required by grass, supported the question of artificial turf on a playing field at $738,000 after some discussion.

Selectman Josh McHenry of New Gloucester told the board that the information was new to the public.


“This is very close to having to make a decision on the issue,” McHenry said. “What will be the mill rate impact on the towns?”

Selectman Nat Berry IV of New Gloucester said, “My concern is the cost and its impact to services. I think a lot of people will be concerned about needs versus wants.” Berry noted recent complaints from taxpayers over the district’s $24 million budget impact on their tax bills.

“Can the citizens afford a $4 million bond for the fields and can we afford a total bond of $7.2 million?” he asked. The final amount of the bond was $7.36 million, according to the vote.

If the bond passes, the district will pay for the upgrades over 20 years.

“Are there other sources of funding other than taxation?” New Gloucester Town Manager Paul First asked.

Don Hutchings of Gray said, “A lot of people in town have the impression that this is not well-vetted to the public. If the vote is on Nov. 4 and absentee ballots go out at the end of September, that is not a very good idea, to me.”


He added that the bond “needs to be publicly vetted in a meaningful way. Everyone in town should have an opportunity to weigh in on it. It’s not fair to ask people to come and understand what’s going on in three weeks. Not everyone can afford what you are proposing.”

James Carter of Gray said he’s a huge soccer fan and could see the need for more space. “We should do what we need to provide a quality education. Turf fields have been studied and they have a 10-year life,” he said, speaking in favor of a grass field.

Fran Monroe of Gray talked about the affordability of the proposal.

“As we get to be an affluent community, we lose state funding and that requires more local cost,” she said. “There is an imbalance in the notification of this meeting. Communication on this project has been very poor.”

Board Chairman Tina Martell said the board has been working on the project for two years and has had regular meetings, open to the public, on the proposal.

The board plans to host public information sessions on the project in the coming weeks.

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