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Cherryfield School Board votes to move forward on major renovation project

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 6:05 PM EDT
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CHERRYFIELD, Maine (WABI) - The Cherryfield School Board voted Wednesday night to move forward with a project that will install a new H-VAC system while replacing the roof and a boiler at the elementary school. But some Cherryfield residents say the project would devastate the town financially.

No one is arguing against the fact the Cherryfield Elementary School needs improvements.

“We’re kind of at the point where we need to have these things done for health reasons, for safety reasons, for code reasons, for a lot of reasons,” said Cherryfield School Department Superintendent Dan Ross. “I mean, there’s one room in the building that the kids refer to as the headache room.”

But some residents say the $2.6 million dollar price tag, at more than $225,000 a year over fifteen years, is more than the town can afford.

“I don’t like the way it’s being done,” said Cherryfield resident Milton Rennevu. “They’re not financing it, they’re lease purchasing it. So, we don’t have many remedies to get out of it early and save any money. It’s going to add $1,700 per year per student, so that’s substantial. It’s gonna hurt the town. Definitely, taxes are gonna go up.”

“The legislature vested that latitude for a school board to authorize a lease purchase,” Ross said. “We’re not the only and we won’t be the last school board to consider that.”

There is also concern about a school board of four making a decision that will effect the entire town, which Superintendent Ross says is what board members were elected to do.

“They say that we don’t know about it because we don’t come to the meetings,” said Cherry Trafton, another concerned Cherryfield resident. “Well, the way I see it, we voted the school board in to look out for our best interest. They’re not doing that. I agree. They need to upgrade the school in certain places, but we can do it in stages.”

Ross said there are no easy answers, and any and every proposal is made with an eye toward whats best for the students.

“It’s not fun when people are upset about things, that’s the last thing a school board and the superintendent want to do. But, we’re kind of at the point where we’re kind of backed into a corner where we need to do these things for code, for legal, for safety.

“Not saying it’s a bad idea,” Rennevu said. “I’m saying go at it a different way that’s more cost effective.”

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