What a School Bomb Threat Costs: $22,400

Bomb scares and resulting lockdowns at three Bangor-area high schools last week involved more than lost time and nervous parents.

The one-day closure of SAD 22's Hampden Academy alone cost at least $22,400, according to school district and area police agencies.

While police continue to investigate the origin of letters sent to Hampden Academy, John Bapst Memorial High School in Bangor and Bangor Christian Schools, the law enforcement costs alone exceed $3,100 and grow daily.

Administrators at Hampden Academy placed a $22,400 price tag on the threat's disturbance of classes.

"It was a great disruption to regular classes," said Emil Genest, assistant superintendent of SAD 22. "There are hard costs and soft costs. The hard costs are the finances and staff time. But what are the educational costs?"

All three schools received handwritten letters through the mail on Monday, March 26. The letters said a bomb would detonate in the schools on the following Wednesday.

The threats prompted the closure of school that day and the cancellation of numerous after-school activities for many days.

At Hampden Academy, four administrators worked almost exclusively for five days on the repercussions from the letter, while teachers invested approximately a day's time over the course of last week attending faculty meetings and helping to secure the building, Genest said. The school spends $12,661.87 a day to employ 52 teachers.

Two members of the custodial staff spent much of their workweek and three hours of overtime walking the school's hallways around the clock, providing 24-hour surveillance.

When the high school makes up a day missed because of the scare, it will cost the district roughly $4,000 to run the bus routes, Genest said.

John Bapst and Bangor Christian, both private institutions, did not provide a break-down of costs.

Bangor Christian Principal Jim Frost said no employees were paid overtime and that the faculty shared the tasks of walking the building and securing the area. John Bapst Head of School Landis Green declined to provide information.

Four law enforcement agencies - Hampden Public Safety, Bangor Police Department, Penobscot County Sheriff's Department and the Maine State Police - were involved in either searching the schools, providing additional security on the grounds or investigating the threats.

Hampden Academy's school resource officer, Cpl. Chris Bailey, who is also a Hampden police officer, spent five days focused on student safety, said Hampden Public Safety Chief Joe Rogers.

Other than Bailey, two additional officers patrolled the high school grounds for several hours, accounting for about $400, Rogers said.

"It's too bad the school resource officer had to work this case, rather than doing other stuff in the school, such as working with students, counseling, presenting in the classrooms and patrolling school grounds," he said.

The primary investigator of the threats, Bangor police Detective Cliff Worcester, is juggling several cases, but has labored over the threats for a total of at least 24 hours, Arno said.

Evidence technicians, who are processing the letters and envelopes, have spent approximately 10 to 12 hours on the case, and the officers who spent three days at the schools rounded out the 40 total hours the department has spent so far, he said.

The total price, just for employee time, not including benefits, equipment and gasoline, is $1,200 to $1,300, Arno said.

The Sheriff's Department bomb-sniffing dog team scoured the hallways of Hampden Academy and John Bapst for around 15 hours over the four days, Sheriff Glenn Ross said.

The cost of the dog and handler is valued at approximately $50 an hour, he said. The state police also had a team that searched the schools, and some troopers received overtime pay for their efforts, said Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety.

But McCausland could not provide the exact number of hours troopers worked on the case.

"While we have people tied up on these hoaxes, it takes away from the officers able to respond to legitimate calls," said Bangor acting Police Chief Peter Arno.