AUBURN — A week after the Edward Little Building Committee recommended using a single ballot question to approve the $120.42 million high school project, most members of the City Council said they would like to see two questions or more.

The design plan for the new Edward Little High School in Auburn. The auditorium is the large block to the right of center, in dark blue. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

The discussion among city officials Tuesday night has led to a series of joint meetings between the City Council and School Committee next week as the deadline approaches for having the language in place for the June 11 referendum.

The final decision will hinge on whether to combine the $105.89 million to be paid by the state and the $14.53 million in local costs, or to separate the proposed spending into two or three questions.

During a workshop discussion Tuesday, at least five councilors said they would support two ballot questions for the school project rather than one. Councilor David Young said he supports the single question, while Councilor Holly Lasagna said she would have to see the proposed ballot language first. Young and Lasagna serve on the school Building Committee.

Many on the council said it should come down to one question seeking approval of a school project financed entirely by the state, and one question or more seeking approval of the elements of the project to be financed by Auburn taxpayers.

However, school officials have said if two questions are to be used, appropriate wording is essential.


Superintendent Katy Grondin said the concern by the Building Committee for separating the state and local expenses is how it could affect the entire project. Depending on the language, and what level of funding is approved, the entire building may have to be redesigned.

For example, she said, the proposed 1,200-seat auditorium could be reduced to about 350 seats, based on the state funding.

“How does the decision we make align with our vision for the future?” she asked Thursday.

The proposed performing arts center has been in the middle of much of the discussion.

Harriman architect Lisa Sawin goes over the proposed design and costs of a new Edward Little High School in Auburn with the Building Committee.  Sun Journal file photo by Bonnie Washuk

City Manager Peter Crichton said Tuesday his takeaway from a previous meeting with school consultants is if the auditorium’s square footage were to change significantly, “you risk having to go back to the design again, and the structure of the high school.”

Crichton said if the auditorium were reduced to 800 seats, the building design could remain the same. A second question, he said, could ask residents if they approve adding 400 seats to the auditorium, bringing it to 1,200 seats.


“I believe it should be two questions, and I have faith and confidence that the community is going to support the new high school,” he said during the workshop.

Many on the council said they have been hearing from constituents since the recommendation for a single question was made.

“I’ve heard from a lot of people,” Councilor Alfreda Fournier said. “I’ve yet to see one person say they’re OK with the one question.”

Councilor Andy Titus, who led the meeting in Mayor Jason Levesque’s absence, said, “I hope we get a chance to vote on this before the 11th hour,” which he said is April 29. He added that if the council were to vote no that night, it would be too late for the question to be on the ballot in June.

Prior to asking for an informal poll of the council, Titus said: “We need to talk about whether we want one, two or three questions, and why. If it’s all because we want to manipulate the voter, then I want to hear what your plan is there. If it’s transparency and openness, maybe it should be more than one question.”

In response to timing concerns, city and school officials are set to meet Monday and Wednesday in joint workshops.


Grondin said Monday’s discussion will include presentations on how the funds would be bonded, which is “important because both bodies have not heard that.”

School architects Mark Lee and Lisa Sawin are also scheduled to go over the budget, including state and local funding.

Grondin said they will also discuss the referendum question, including “a second question option.”

If Auburn voters were to reject the referendum June 11, the city would have four months to win voter approval.

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