, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 20, 2013

Selectmen balk at Page furniture costs

West Newbury: Issue ignites school lease issue leases debate


“I personally don’t care what the other towns are doing,” he said.

And Page School Principal Jack O’Mara told selectmen, “This is not a bells and whistles request.” He called the current cafeteria furniture “marginal” and stressed that there was no money in the project to replace the tables and chairs.

But after the meeting, selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles questioned comments made by the building committee indicating the school has tables and chairs in storage. He wondered why they weren’t being used and said if it’s because they have outlived their useful life, then that’s something the district must have known and should have addressed as part of regular maintenance.

If, on the other hand, the district contends that the furniture was not in disrepair when it was stored — and therefore didn’t need to be replaced — Knowles wondered why it can’t be used in the new space. Either way, he doesn’t see it as a bill West Newbury taxpayers should have to cover.

The issue appears to be bigger than the $16,000 price tag for lunchroom furniture and spills into the drafting of elementary school leases in recent months.

The district has historically paid the member towns $1 annually for use of the elementary schools. But for some reason, while West Newbury has a formal, signed lease with the district, similar agreements have not existed in Groveland and Merrimac. This year, officials in those towns have worked on developing leases. At the same time, West Newbury has tackled renewing its lease, which is due to expire in June.

Issues arose, however, when wording governing how emergency repairs are to be handled differed between the three communities. In Groveland and Merrimac’s leases, emergency repairs would be initiated by the towns, but West Newbury chose to stick with existing language in its lease that gave the school district the authority to handle the work.

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