LIMESTONE, Maine — Amid rising energy prices, Limestone residents opted to give their school district more funds to cover electricity bills.
The majority of more than 50 residents at a March 29 meeting voted to allow Limestone Community School to use no more than $50,000 towards the remainder of the school year.
Residents originally allocated $67,500 for electricity expenses during last year’s annual town meeting. But increases in Versant Power’s standard offer rates – from 20 cents per kilowatt hour to 30 cents – brought the school district’s monthly electric bills from $8,000 to $12,000, more than originally anticipated in the 2022-23 budget.
The $50,000 is intended for the remaining four months of the school year, said Chris Kilcollins, the district’s business manager.
“We won’t exceed that amount,” Kilcollins said.
Though Limestone Community School has signed on for 15 percent savings on electric bills through a community solar garden, construction for the solar panels is not finished, Kilcollins said.
In other business, residents voted to delay using town funds to repair the school pool until the annual town meeting in June.
Limestone school officials had requested no more than $126,000 to replace the original 1970s pool plumbing, which has corroded beyond repair. The cost is estimated to be at least $65,000, said Superintendent William Dobbins.
“The $126,000 is just an amount to approve just in case [costs are higher],” Dobbins said. “Hopefully we won’t come close to that.”
In 2021, the school used $110,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to repair the pool liner and decking. But in January, after conducting warranty work on the liner, officials discovered the corroded plumbing and drained the pool. Community members have not been able to use the pool since then.
Limestone is the only school north of Bangor that has its own pool, Dobbins said. The pool is a major draw for students in Caswell and Fort Fairfield and at the Maine School of Science and Mathematics, which shares a building with Limestone Community School.
Plumbing repairs need to be done as soon as possible, so the pool can be saved, Dobbins said.
“If we leave water out of the pool, the liner will shrink,” Dobbins said.
Though Dobbins said the school will apply for several grants, many residents were wary of setting aside town funds if those plans are not set in stone. That led to the vote to delay such funds until the school can provide more information on potential grants.
There are temporary solutions for saving the pool’s liner until more extensive work can be done, said Jim Leighton, Limestone Water & Sewer District Superintendent.
“We can sand blast the filter with spray-on coating,” Leighton said. “It’s a Band-Aid, but there are things we can do now to save money.”