Harriman architectural designer Mark Lee, left, and project manager Lisa Sawin introduce themselves to the Auburn School Committee Wednesday night. The committee approved Harriman as the architect to renovate or build a new Edward Little High School.

AUBURN — Another chapter in a new Edward Little High School building began Wednesday night when the School Committee approved Harriman of Auburn as architects.

Harriman was the Building Committee’s recommendation.

There were five or six firms that applied for the job, member Bonnie Hayes said. “By far, Harriman was the best one,” she said.

It’s very nice to know that Harriman is a part of the community and has built numerous schools in the area, she said. Hayes said she was pleased to keep the project “in the community, to keep the dollars here.”

City Councilor Jim Pross, the mayor’s representative on the committee, said he was glad the Building Committee recommended Harriman for the same reasons shared by Hayes.

After the vote, Harriman project manager Lisa Sawin and architectural designer Mark Lee introduced themselves.

“I want to emphasize how excited Mark and myself, and the team of architects and engineers are to be selected,” Sawin said.

Lee, who said he grew up in Auburn and attended the Lake Street School, said he sees four pillars of the project:

• What the high school will mean to the community;

• The educational planning and Harriman’s role to make sure the building will facilitate that;

• Ensuring good community involvement; and

• Working with the Maine Department of Education, which has oversight of the project.

With the architectural firm chosen, the next big step facing the Building Committee will be deciding whether a new school will be built or the school will be renovated. That decision will involve an analysis with the Department of Education, starting with a March 9 meeting.

If the decision is to build, a location will be a big question, Lee said, and there are many variables, including available land, site assessments and approvals.

Before a site is approved, there will be public hearings.

Ultimately no school can be built unless approved by Auburn residents in a referendum. Depending on how planning and site selection goes, the referendum could go to voters as early as the spring of 2018.

Superintendent Katy Grondin has said it will be years before a new or improved high school opens.

After years of planning and hoping, the state Board of Education approved a new or improved high school for Auburn in September.

The state will pay for 100 percent of the project. Auburn taxpayers may be asked to approve items not allowed by the state, such as air conditioning. Typically a new high school for 1,000 students would cost between $62 million and $65 million.

The Building Committee will meet in March at a date to be announced.

Grondin has said it could be five to seven years before a new school opens. 

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