Joseph and others involved in the project spread the word at a Sept. 12 public hearing and with flyers distributed throughout town. A referendum vote to approve the new costs was scheduled for Sept. 25.
After contracting bids for the construction of Vinalhaven’s new school came in $2.6 million over what was anticipated, school officials worked with the contractor, architect and state to trim building costs by more then $1 million. The State Board of Education agreed to pay for the lion’s share (nearly $1 million) of what was still needed, and the Vinalhaven community group Partners in Island Education (PIE) promised the remaining $115,000.
Under this new budget the town’s share still totals $2,633,030 – the same amount approved in a 288-to-34 vote last December.
The upcoming September referendum, Joseph said, was “basically for the town to decide whether to accept this money.”
Joseph said that while everyone was surprised when the bids came in higher than expected, the state understood that this wasn’t due to an oversight on the part of the project planners, but rather to a high bidding climate (two other school bids in the state recently came in 22 percent and 30 percent higher than budgeted, he said), and to the “island factor” – the unknowns involved in transporting materials and housing workers.
“This is the biggest island project ever undertaken – when we went to bid nobody knew what was going to take place,” Joseph said. “We wanted a good building and we were willing to pay our share and I think the state recognized that. And they recognized that Vinalhaven needed this school and that we worked hard to get it within state guidelines.”
Kris Young of PIE reported that the group has raised $1.82 million towards its goal of $2 million for the new school. She said she hopes that excitement of the October ceremonial ground-breaking for the new school will help the group reach its goal.
“I’m very impressed and touched by the generosity shown by both year-round and seasonal residents,” Young said. “It’s been a heart-warming experience. And we hope that once people see the ground-breaking, see the dream becoming a reality, that they’ll be encouraged to donate even more.”
Joseph also reported that despite the difficulties of the new school project and the implementation of a new middle school program in Vinalhaven, teachers have “stepped up” with their support to ensure that interim principal Jeff Aronson’s introduction to the school has been a smooth one. Aronson, who taught at the University of Vermont for 14 years and has worked as a consultant for children’s literacy programs, will serve as principal this year while a permanent principal is sought.
“He’s lived on the island for 11 years,” Joseph said of Aronson. “He’s well-known and well-liked by a lot of folks. He knows the community and he knows the kids. I’m really excited that we found him and could include him in this whole thing.”