LEWISTON — To offer a course in plumbing at Lewiston Regional Technical Center, this year’s cost, including building the class space, buying equipment and hiring a master plumber instructor, will be between $90,000 and $100,000, said director Rob Callahan.
Budgetary concerns are why plumbing hasn’t been offered before.
The money situation changed last spring when Attorney General Janet Mills’ office asked LRTC: Do you need money to teach plumbing?
Yes, said Callahan, ecstatic about the offer.
The AG’s Office had settled a lawsuit with Bathfitters. One of the reasons for the lawsuit was Bathfitters didn’t use licensed plumbers to install products, which led to problems.
“Part of their contention was they can’t find enough plumbers in Maine,” Callahan said. Mills responded to Bathfitters, Callahan said, that Bathfitters would be part of that solution.
Part of the settlement was that three technical centers that teach high school students — in Farmington, Oxford and Lewiston — would get money to start teaching plumbing.
That meant $60,000 for LRTC this year, $60,000 more next year. The new funding means that of Maine’s 27 high school technical centers, seven now offer plumbing.
On top of the AG’s gift, LRTC has secured some federal grant money for the program, and has applied for a Skills USA Lowe’s grant. “We should hear about that anytime,” Callahan said. If LRTC is successful with the Lowe’s grant, there may not be any local costs for starting the program, Callahan said.
In the state’s education funding formula, there’s a two-year delay for paying for new programs. That means once the lawsuit money is gone, much of the program’s cost will be covered by the state money for education, Callahan said.
In addition, the program has received robust support from local businesses, especially Geiger.
“Geiger heard about what we’re doing. They have a plumbing shop,” Callahan said. Geiger invited LRTC to come in and take whatever equipment and tools the program could use.
Callahan sent plumbing instructor Pete Kennedy to Geiger with a truck. “We loaded that truck. It’s that kind of community support we’ve been seeing. It’s been tremendous.”