Friday, December 13, 2013
BINGHAM -- A Bingham selectman strongly urged the School Administrative District 13 Tuesday night not to close Bingham's Quimby Middle School.
Members of the Bingham-based SAD 13 listened to a pitch from Bingham Selectman Steve Steward and Jim Beaty, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corp., who said the area's economic picture could change for the better in the future.
The board will decide at its next meeting, Jan. 8, whether to close schools for budgetary reasons.
"I don't think we should close any of the schools right now because our economic future looks much better than our economic past," said Steward.
Steward said he anticipated an increase in business in the area and that a decision to close any of the schools would be premature.
Beaty said, "I can't say there are going to be X number of jobs over the next five years, but we are hoping to do a long-term economic plan."
Beaty said the commission is in the process of getting grants for the development of what are now unorganized territories in the area from Bingham to the Canadian border along U.S. Route 201.
Superintendent Virginia Rebar presented updated results of a survey about restructuring that was sent to residents in late October that shows 91 out of 208 surveys, or almost half of those returned, were in favor of closing Quimby Middle School, which was one of four options. Survey responders could also choose closing both Quimby and Moscow Elementary School, closing Moscow Elementary School or not closing any schools.
Steward said he had spoken with a broker who had sold school buildings in other districts. "Every one of those communities regretted doing it," he said. "If the town grows at all and you've closed your school, you're screwed."
He said closing Quimby Middle School would save a minimal amount of money that would not immediately cover the cost of closing the school or maintaining an empty building.
Steward said that First Wind is planning on submitting an application for a wind power project this month or next month, which would add to the region's economic picture.
Beaty also brought up the possible east-west highway and plans the commission has to hire a consultant to develop a 20-year economic development plan for the northern part of Somerset County, including Bingham and Moscow. He said he anticipates that the plan will be developed in the second quarter of 2013.
Meanwhile Second Selectman Michael Staples, of Moscow, said he is in favor of closing Quimby.
"We all hope things are going to happen, but I don't foresee a tremendous influx of people coming into the area," he said.
He said that a new radar installation that will create new jobs would not be enough to dramatically change the enrollment of the district schools.
"We are nowhere near the population we used to have," he said. "I remember going to school here when the classrooms were packed."
"We need to put this issue behind us so we can develop next year's budget," said Brian Malloy, chairman of the school board.
The board will vote on whether to close any of the schools at their next meeting on Jan. 8, Malloy said.
Rachel Ohm -- 612-2368