Kudos to Laura Dolce and the Star, for an excellent job on this story, while under fire from both the "TMI" and the "NEI" forces.*
*(Too Much Information AND Not Enough Information).
I understand the the feelings of dismay from some residents, regarding the potential client list disclosure from this case, and the resulting damage to families and the participants. The fact is, however, that an unbiased and objective press, the Fourth Estate, is the bedrock of American freedom, and liberty. Sometimes, full disclosure is painful, both to citizens and the journalists. However, it is essential.
We cannot ask for a cover-up on one story, while demanding full disclosure on another.
A biased and selective press means a manipulated and uninformed citizenry. It is essential that our journalists be fair and balanced in what they publish, no matter how much it pains them personally to publish such information.
For further information, please see "Press" at this link. Thank you.
Muckrakers serve a purpose. Rake the muck!
Arundel Withdrawal Committee update:
"On Thursday, July 12, 2012 the AWC and RSU 21 reached a tentative agreement subject to final review by both sides' attorneys, and then sent for DOE approval."
"Planning Decisions analysis will be the next step."
The Arundel Withdrawal Committee is working to accomplish the town's withdrawal from RSU 21.
Route 1 Kennebunk is a mess between the Arundel line and Route 35. Paving preparation. Avoid if possible.
Central Office Moves to KES
We hope this note finds you all enjoying this beautiful Maine summer. This letter is sent to inform you that the Office of the Superintendent, including the district's Business Office, has relocated to available space at Kennebunk Elementary School. Our new address is 177 Alewive Road, but our telephone number will remain the same (985-1100). Our offices are now next door to the district's Special Services Department and close by the Technology Department, providing us with a more centralized center of operations. Please drop by and visit us between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
KES opened with 10 empty classrooms. Since then, enrollments have steadily declined. Now, not only is it home to the Central Office and the Superintendent, but the Technology Department moved there several years ago, along with the Special Education department. The school board also holds its meetings at the facility.
Back when KES was first proposed, the CAUSE and KTA groups tried hard to say "make it smaller, and less expensive." The school board and administration refused to listen. Now, we have another half-empty school, along with the others like Sea Road, Consolidated and ML Day.
Collectively, this represents poor management of the district's resources, and a lousy financial effect on all district taxpayers.
As Kport and Arundel move closer to withdrawal from the district, Kennebunk residents are going to be facing some hard choices with regard to facilities. Schools must be closed, and costs contained, or more people are going to move out of town as taxes continue to rise. The "for sale" signs all over Kennebunk already tell the tale.*
All the more reason to hold off on endeavors like the questionable foreign student program; trying to keep Sea Road School; and the expensive rehab to KHS.
* (Trulia lists 238 properties for sale in Kennebunk at the present time. I have heard from several realtors the actual number is closer to 400. Many are foreclosure, or pre-foreclosure).
Local Politics, Plain Truth, and Payback
Recently, the Port put their town insurance out to bid, for the first time in over 30 years. The result? A new policy with a new provider, at $10K more per year, for what has been called less comprehensive coverage.
The reason? Here's what's being said -- Jeff Cole, owner of the Port's longtime provider, Cole Harrison of Kennebunk, stepped on some community toes in the Port, during his service on the school district cost-sharing committee. His "crime"? During the cost-sharing deliberations, he endeavored to implement a mechanism by which district residents could close a school, which is badly needed in RSU 21.
As frequent readers of this thread know, RSU 21 has some schools that are half-empty, and state audits have suggested that we close at least one facility, if not two. The estimated savings from closing each school would be $600K per year, if not more -- and these days, that's big money. As we also know, the current school board majority has done nothing in this regard, but instead, has consistently bowed to community pressure to keep all district schools open - at great cost to the entire district.
Cole's estimate is that closing Consolidated could save the district about $40M over 25 years, and that's some serious change; especially since Arundel is pursuing withdrawal from RSU 21. If that happens, the Port and Kennebunk would be left to pay the district's entire budget.
The Port is very sensitive about any attempts to close Consolidated School, which is understandable. Every community wants to have their own school. However, times are tough, and the forecast isn't getting any better. Should a district resident's factual representation of the fiscal truth be grounds for payback, in the form of a lost contract?
The old saying goes "There's no dirty politics like local politics." Seems like it may still be true, at least in RSU 21.
Interested readers can watch the Kport selectmen's meeting at www.townhallstreams.com
Enter "04046" in the appropriate space, and select the July 12th meeting. The relevant statements from Cole occur in the first ten minutes of the film.
Here's the Star article on the Port's change of insurance provider.
I would rather see a Kennebunk school closed and bus those students to the Port.
Meanwhile, the Chase Hill Road saga continues in Kennebunk.
Residents tired of treatment
To the Editor:
There was too much of the bully pulpit ...and not enough careful listening at ...Selectmen's meeting, July17th. ....
Perhaps it was the heat and humidity... but the message heard was: "You ungrateful residents should stop bringing all these unsolved issues to this board..."
We salute our neighbors ... for their steadfast commitment and hundreds of hours invested to make Lower Village ...a decent place to live, and for reminding the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen of its mission.
Robert and Nona Lyons
Lower Village, Kennebunk
Scroll down for letter.
Interested readers can view all selectmens' meetings at www.townhallstreams.com or find a rebroadcast on cable channel 5.
Kennebunk/Kport/Arundel Chamber of Commerce Director Resigns
Emails received saying that Jim Fitzgerald has resigned from his position as Director at the Chamber of Commerce.
Islander - in truth, what should have happened, is the new elementary school should have been built in Kport, instead of in Kennebunk. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. The two oldest schools in the district are located in Arundel and Kport. The newest schools are in Kennebunk. From a purely practical standpoint, it makes no sense to close the newest schools, in favor of renovating and keeping open the two oldest, while the newest are half-empty (in some cases).
As I've stated in the past, I understand why a parent in Cape Porpoise doesn't want their young children bused all the way to West Kennebunk. I lived in several parts of Kport, and I know how long a bus trip that would be, for our youngest children. I don't blame the Port for wanting to keep Consolidated open. The problem, as always these days, is there's no more money on the district level to do what we want, as opposed to what's best from a practical standpoint.
I don't blame the Port for seeking to withdraw from the district, nor do I blame Arundel. I understand why they wish to keep their community schools. I do blame the school district (mostly past administration and board members, although some present) for the collective decades of lousy management that have landed all of us in this predicament. Along, of course, with Baldacci, for his enforced consolidation which only screwed things up 185% more.
It's just a lousy situation, all the way around. What's even worse, however, is seeing someone "punished" for daring to speak the fiscal truth -- which it appears may be the case with the Port's decision to ditch Cole Harrison.
A bus ride from Cape Porpoise isn't half as bad as one from Goose Rocks. Having known Jeff for a longtime and having done business with his father etc, this seems like a real cheap shot and I hope the town gets called on it.
What's even worse, however, is seeing someone "punished" for daring to speak the fiscal truth -- which it appears may be the case with the Port's decision to ditch Cole Harrison.
If it is the case then this smacks of Chicago politics in little ole Kennebunkport. It should be noted that School Board Director Tim Hussey has strong connections with Kennebunk Savings. Coincidence?
FL - in my experience, almost nothing in small-town politics is ever really coincidence. Somebody always knows somebody, who knows somebody else, etc.
Islander - I agree that if politics is the reason Cole Harrison was ditched, it's a cheap shot. If the new policy was cheaper, and had better coverage, there might be less questions. However, if, as Cole says, the reverse is true, the town isn't doing its taxpayers (and its employees) any favors.
Boy, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! Cost is $10,000 more and a 30 year relationship is blown off just like that. Was this a town manager decision, or the board of selectmen?
From what I understand, the change occurred due to Mead's suggestion to the Kport selectmen, who approved the change.
Charlie, please check your PM's. Thank you.
Alert Message from RSU 21
Mid-Summer Update from RSU 21
I hope this letter finds each of you enjoying this beautiful Maine summer with your family and friends. As we prepare for the start of the 2012-2013 school year, I want to provide you with a mid-summer update on our progress.
Hiring of New Staff
One of our most important tasks each summer is selecting top-notch employees to replace those who were lost to retirement or resignation in the spring. Our principals and department administrators have been spending a great deal of time reviewing applications and interviewing candidates for positions throughout the district, and I am pleased to report that the hiring process is going well. We have hired numerous instructors with impressive and varied experiences and training, and I am confident that our students will be well-served by our thorough search process. Your child's school will be providing you with a list of new instructors as the year begins, and I encourage you to provide a warm welcome to these new employees to our district.
Another major task that takes place each summer is the preparation of our facilities for the opening of school. Our Facilities Department is working continuously to ensure that the schools are operational, efficient, and clean for the fall. Two major tasks this summer include the move of our Central Administration offices to Kennebunk Elementary School and the conversion of our former offices to classroom space at Kennebunk High School. That work is going well, with our office space virtually completed and the high school work progressing as planned.
--> One major event that has hampered the work of the maintenance crew is the failure of three roof drains at Kennebunk Elementary School during one of this summer's rainstorms. This led to significant water intrusion into the classroom wings of the building and is causing us a tremendous amount of work. Because of our experience with air quality concerns, we have aggressively taken on the task of removing any materials that became wet during this event. This includes carpeting, sheetrock, and ceiling tiles, as well as moveable items such as student work, paper supplies, and textbooks. Although this work is expensive, we feel it is the appropriate approach, and we are following the direction of contracted air quality experts. We are currently negotiating a settlement on these damages with our insurance carrier, and it is our intent to have both the financial aspect and the facilities aspect of this work completed by mid- to late-August. To ensure that all water-damaged materials have been removed, we will be conducting thorough searches – using the latest moisture-detecting technology – prior to putting our classrooms back together. We will be providing a full report on our progress at the next Board of School Directors' meeting, scheduled for August 6 at 7:00 p.m. at KES, and I will provide you with a written update as the school year approaches.
Updated Student Handbooks
Building Principals are currently finalizing their student handbooks for 2012-2013. These handbooks will be presented to the Board at the August 6 meeting as well. Although we do not anticipate major changes, it is important for students and parents to be aware of the information, guidelines and expectations outlined in these handbooks. Your student will be able to assist you in reviewing this material at the beginning of the school year.
Please be reminded that September 4 is the first student day for students in Grades 1-9. Students in Grades 10-12 will begin on September 5, with Kindergarteners joining us on September 6. The 2012-2013 School Calendar is available on our website (http://www.rsu21.net/Documents/Calendar%202012-13.pdf), along with a wealth of district information. Please make our site (www.rsu21.net) one of your favorites!
Enjoy the rest of your summer, and we'll see you in the fall.
Superintendent of Schools
Hopefully, this time the district will pursue all avenues for reimbursement on the repairs to KES in a timely manner, unlike what happened with MSK.
One other question --> when former Superintendent Tom Farrell moved the Central Offices from Storer Street to KHS, it cost about $15K, if I recall correctly. Now, the Central Office has been moved to KES, and the former office is being converted back to classrooms. How much is the price tag for the new move to KES, and the reconstruction at KHS?
Baldacci's administration helped mandate this state-funded program, and now, there's no money to pay for it, so it's being ended. This means the local budget must absorb the additional cost.
State pulls Maine teacher subsidy; schools must still pay minimum salary
By Lindsay Tice, Sun Journal
Starting this fall, the state will no longer give Maine school systems money to help pay their first-year teachers a state-mandated $30,000 a year. However, schools must still pay that minimum salary.
The law change....expected to save the state about $300,000 a year. It will cost some school systems anywhere between a few dollars and several thousand dollars.
Maine created the minimum teacher salary in 2006. At the time, the average first-year teacher in Maine made about $27,000 a year.
School district rushes to action after water leaks
By Jennifer Feals
August 02, 2012 2:00 AM
KENNEBUNK — .... roof drains at Kennebunk Elementary School failed (in June)... causing water intrusion in the ....classroom wings....
.... carpet, sheetrock, and ceiling tiles... student work, paper supplies and textbooks ...removed from the building. ...work completed by mid- to late-August....
Carpeted areas are being replaced... administrators will work with teachers to put down area rugs.
.... water intrusion followed a severe storm in June....
Dolloff said three drains on the building's roof failed and may have been clogged with branches and leaves that had come down in the storm.
It would be helpful if the dollar figures attached to the needed repairs were cited by the district, as well as the amount local taxpayers will have to absorb. It's doubtful that insurance will cover the entire cost, and residents also need to know how much the premiums will rise, as a result of the claims.
--> In addition, the cause of the drain failure needs to be determined. If the result is poor maintenance, with a failure to keep the drains cleaned in the past, that needs to be honestly addressed. In either case, plans must be made to ensure it doesn't happen in the future.
RSU 21 offices move to KES
KENNEBUNK — The RSU 21 ... offices have moved to ...Kennebunk Elementary School.
... move...frees up ... space at (KHS)...as classrooms, while creating a centralized center of operations for administrative departments...
The administrative offices...includ(ing).. financial services... now located at the end of a hallway at KES and will have their own entrance and parking. They are next to the district's Special Services and Technology Departments.
.... The administrative offices will... be taken out of plans for future expansion... at KHS, Dolloff said.
Again, residents deserve to know the price tag for these renovations. How much will it cost to reconstruct the classrooms at KHS, and to create a new parking lot, separate entrances, and offices at KES? Where in the budget will that money be found?
KES repairs to top $250K
Insurance funds will cover most of the work, officials say
By Jennifer Feals
August 09, 2012 2:00 AM
KENNEBUNK — New roof drains will be installed at Kennebunk Elementary School...after three failing drains ...
The drains failed during a storm... flooding 29 classrooms, bathrooms and hallways. ...Swan received support from the RSU 21 Board of Directors for replacing the remaining 24 roof drains.
She said... roof drains have "been a problem," causing issues three other times... though not as severe. Swan said changing all 27 drains to a cast iron system will take care of concerns.
"It's really nerve-wracking every time it rains," Swan said.
Then why not replace the drains long before now?
29 classrooms, bathrooms and hallways damaged to the point of almost total reconstruction, along with all the contents.
Why can't we get responsible management of RSU 21 facilities? If a homeowner were in this position, they would have had the drains changed after the first incident. They wouldn't wait until the fourth time, when absolute disaster was the result.
Because facilities management at RSU 21 didn't act to change the drains when the problems first emerged ($16K for replacement, at current costs), the taxpayers are now on the hook for the $5K insurance deductible and any increased premiums, and the district staff has expended countless hours cleaning out the soaked materials and carpeting, ceiling tiles, etc., and then replacing them. All of those hours, presumably, cost money.
The total cost for this disaster (cited at $250+) to the district is likely far larger than the $5,000 insurance deductible, and it could have been prevented with a $16K drain replacement - which hasn't been done.
This is good, responsible management of RSU 21 facilities?
Update on Performing Arts Center Proposal and KHS Renovations
....Director Tim Hussey said...Kennebunk High School Building Committee ... moving forward in design of plans for renovating the building, including building a performing arts center on site...more detailed information ... at an upcoming board meeting.
Conceptual plans for the performing arts center could cost $15 million, Hussey said ...with the plan being to raise $10 million through private donations and $5 million through taxpayers.
Hussey estimated that the committee will have a...design and cost numbers by late fall.
Scroll down for this portion of the article.
Last time a fundraising project was launched for a performing arts center at KHS, the then-committee couldn't even raise the $40K necessary to hire an architect. Since that time, the recession has come along, with a significant decline in private and donor monies.
Hussey and some committee members likely have deeper pockets than the last group, but the question still remains -- why should the public be asked to fund an expensive project with absolutely no guarantee of success, run by a district that can't even get roof drains replaced in a reasonable time frame?
The public needs to realize that once construction for such a facility begins, the taxpayers are on the hook, regardless of any donor revenues that are subsequently raised. Regardless of any donation pledges which subsequently fail. That means not only construction costs, but ongoing costs for maintenance, insurance, staffing, materials, utilities and upkeep through the years.
We have a district where two of the three towns are actively seeking exit. The cost-sharing formula is in seemingly permanent limbo, until/if those towns make their exit. We're already faced with exorbitant plans for renovations at KHS - renovation plans that would cost more than an entirely new school proposed for Wells. We're also in limbo as to needed millions for repairs at ML Day and Consolidated.
There are "for sale" signs all over Kennebunk, in numbers never previously seen. People are hurting; taxes are already rising again; winter is coming, and many in our town are in serious financial trouble. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop the Spending Juggernaut from the district.
If only we had district leadership that would put aside grandiose plans, do only the absolute minimum in renovations at all schools, and seek to close at least one facility - at least until the economy improves. Wouldn't that be a welcome change for our community's residents?
I so wish that were the case.
Instead ---> the district may move to put the $43 million+ KHS renovation plan on this coming November's ballot. This would be prior to knowing whether Arundel and the Port will withdraw, and at the worst possible economic time, for many residents.
The decision regarding adding the KHS renovations to the November 2012 ballot will likely be made at the district's next board meeting, scheduled for August 20th.
if, like me, you would prefer to see the district put off the KHS renovation vote to a later time, please email the superintendent and school board, and let them know your wishes. Thank you.
Andrew Dolloff, Superintendent
Lower Village parking option discussed
Potential Chase Hill lot dropped
KENNEBUNK — ...options for parking in Lower Village were discussed ...Tuesday night... satellite lot on Chase Hill Road...thrown out.
Four new areas for potential parking were discussed Tuesday....snip
Costs range from $452,500 for the Western Avenue lot to $221,929 for Chase Hill and $172,159 for Washington Hose. The Western Avenue and Chase Hill cost estimates do not include land purchases, which would be needed. Port Road improvements are estimated at $391,111.
The Lower Village TIF funds are tapped out, due to the reconstruction work on Route 9/Western Avenue. So, there are no TIF funds available to cover the proposed parking lot project in Lower Village.
While a new municipal parking lot would be nice to have, the natural question is "from where will the necessary funding emerge?" Taxes are already rising, due to town spending increases for salaries/benefits, as well as an additional increase to the county budget. The school district is lobbying for a massive bond project, as well as a new performing arts center.
If the town is serious about building this lot, the money should come from surplus funds, not another tax increase or bond. Given the onerous financial burden already borne by Kennebunk taxpayers (with more to come if Arundel withdraws from RSU 21, and the district succeeds in their massive renovation bonding), using surplus funds for the parking lot would be the most fair and equitable way to pay for the project. In addition, the parking lot should be pay-for-use, like the Port's, and help to generate revenue for Kennebunk's general fund.
Surplus funds are mostly created when overdue property taxes are finally paid to the town. instead of being returned to the general taxpayers, and the general fund, the overdue tax monies are put into the surplus fund account. Right now, there is over $5M in that surplus account.
Using surplus funding for the new municipal parking lot would avoid further tax burdens on Kennebunk's residents from bonding. The revenues from the lot could be added to the general fund, and this would help to lessen future tax increases for Kennebunk's residents.
Last night's selectmens meeting (available at www.townhallstreams.com) contained some interesting discussions.
Short version of one issue:
1) The mill rate will stay the same as last year.
Evidently, this was accomplished by increasing some property valuations, to offset the town tax increases (salaries/benefits) and the school and county increases. So, when you get your next town tax bill, please check your valuation very carefully. The usual targets for assessment increases are waterfront, shoreland zones, and any homes near the beach or golf courses, but one never knows.
2) The reason the town kept the mill rate stable? The town administration wants up to $500K for a new parking lot in Lower Village -- which does NOT include the land purchase.
The $500K price cited is only to build the lot -- which would only yield 80 spaces. (80 spaces - with the justification being hung on ordinances, new business growth, etc. -- despite the creation of a new, privately-owned parking lot in Lower Village, one that will contain at least twice that number of spaces).
The price for the property itself was omitted by the town manager, but any reasonable person might surmise the owners will be seeking maximum dollars from the town. So, how much more for this project? Another $300K? $500K?
--> The capper - the town administration is looking to put this new project on the November ballot.
We don't know what funding method will be proposed, but I'd bet this year's batch of damson jam that the answer will be "bonding."
Perhaps I need to resurrect my Town Taj Mahal tagline.
Here's the TownHallStreams video link to the 8/14 Selectmens meeting
The video will open in a new link.
Postscript - thank you, to resident Ed Karytko, for asking the board to have a "For Sale" sign placed on the Mobil Station lot on Main Street. Ed is right - the town needs to make it clear that the property is for sale.
Good job Kennebunk town hall and manager - put eveything on the November election including the school plans, then we can vote it down for good.
KbunkOldeTimer -- welcome to the AMG forum!
The massive turnout for the November election would certainly be the best "thermometer" for how Kennebunk residents feel about giant new spending proposals. I agree - let the school district and the town put these projects on the November ballot, and let the voters decide.
However, I must caution you that "for good" isn't always in the town hall vocabulary. We've seen it before, with the repeated votes on the Downtown Enhancement project, and the Park St. proposals. Some people don't know how to take "no" for an answer, nor how to respect the will of the voters.
So far as the town's parking proposal's concerned. Makes sense to me to wait and see what effect the new private parking facility has on the situation in Lower Village. I believe there are to be a total of 120(?) spaces when completed. I question too the town going into competition with a private property owner (taxpayer).
Same here, Charlie. I never support Government competing with private business when it comes to such projects.
The town manager is using the remote parking needs of new business (to fulfill parking waivers) as justification, and trying to say the town shouldn't "rely" on private parking to fill those needs.
However, given the concerns of Lower Village residents over the growth of new business in that area, and the increased traffic/parking congestion, it seems to me that the waivers should be eliminated. If Harrington needs more parking for his new projects (or any other developer), let them pay their own way. I'm not worried about Harringon's ability to figure out the funding for his own parking requirements.
I'm tired of seeing Kennebunk spend endless tax and TIF money to support businesses, while the residents see no tax relief, despite the gigantic surplus accounts maintained by the town.
Last night, Selectman Dave Spofford "congratulated" the town administration for all the projects funded by TIF dollars, which he said would have otherwise come from raising taxes. What Spofford fails to acknowledge, is that if not for the TIF districts, those tax dollars would have flowed to the General Fund, and some of the spending likely wouldn't have been approved. It's easy to say "Let's fund brick sidewalks, expensive granite curbing, ugly new streetlamps and Marketing Directors" when the money comes from the "free" TIF funds. It's a much harder sell when the mill rate reflects the increase directly.
These kinds of shell games with the resident's tax dollars aren't fooling anybody.
If the town wants a new parking lot in Lower Village, they need to use surplus funding or forgo the project. Better yet, let them ask Harrington and some of the other wealthy developers for the money to build the new parking lot. He could get a tax deduction, and the gesture would help to ameliorate some of the negative impact on Lower Village, from his massive new projects.
Speaking of brick sidewalks, is that what we will see soon adjacent to those lovely new concrete curbs on Port Road?
Originally I thought the road was to be widened for a bike path adjacent to the existing travel lanes like K-port did on School Street. Now it's a sidewalk! Why? No one walks there, runners and bikers, but walkers? From where, to where?