Big mistake.

Big, big mistake.

The Edward Little High School Building Committee’s consensus decision on Tuesday to put the entire school construction project — including the local option to enlarge the auditorium — into a single question is a gesture of unnecessary force.

And, given Maine’s history of splitting questions on school construction projects, uncommon force.

Taxpayers should be permitted to vote on the local options, the so-called “extras,” outside of the entirely state-funded core project.

If a single question — asking taxpayers to support the entire $120.4 million project — fails, the school district will have the option for a do-over, but it would have to be rushed and it could push back the construction calendar and unnecessarily delay the project. And, if it doesn’t pass the second time around, there will be minimal time to try again.

A third try? There won’t be enough time.

Given the many months the school district has already spent on meetings and mailings, why take that chance?

It’s a completely unnecessary risk to the project, and to the very students the district works so hard to support.

The smart thing would be to eagerly and thankfully draft the state-funded $105.89 million core project into one question, take the bird already in hand, if you will, and then spend the time between now and the June 11 referendum vote to convince taxpayers of the merits in funding $14.53 million for the additional options.

Probably best if those options are divided into separate questions, or grouped into multiple questions.

For instance, the geothermal system is a long-term and truly cost-effective heating/cooling option for the school that should easily be supported as a stand-alone question. A second question might group additional program space and extra parking, which go directly to student services and community access.

The second turf field for lacrosse and extra features at the athletic stadium are really entirely separate from HVAC and program space needs, and could be a separate question.

And, the 1,200-seat auditorium and fully equipped performing arts center stand alone.

Each option to be considered on its own merits.

The Building Committee seems to have moved through the planning process safe in the belief the entire community is behind its every decision. That’s just not the case.

Taxpayers have raised questions, and there has been very strong criticism of the size of the performing arts center and a real demand for explanation.

But, many of the meetings held by the Building Committee and the public forums to date have been attended largely by people who support the project, creating a little bubble of comfort for those close to the project.

Bubbles do burst.

Last month’s straw poll, which showed clear support for all aspects of the project, was a definite win for construction. But, even in that room there was criticism of some options. There were pockets of people there who spoke openly about their concerns to their seatmates, just not to members of the Building Committee.

A one-question approach is a not-so-subtle move to force voters who may not necessarily support all local options to support them anyway in order to get the core project built.

Why so pushy?

The proposed project is modern, efficient and handsomely designed, and its concept and planning have been years in the making, with great efforts made for community collaboration.

If the community really wants this entire project, voters will approve all of its pieces.

In pieces.

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