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March 8, 2013

More funding requests for Page School raise concerns

WEST NEWBURY — Selectmen raised concerns recently about continued requests from the Page School Building Committee to fund additional projects for ongoing renovation work at the town’s elementary school.

On a draft version of the annual town warrant, currently under review by selectmen, the committee seeks $159,404 “to cover potential cost increases associated with unforeseen conditions and/or required design modifications.”

A second article asks for $105,690 “to remove a portion of the existing gymnasium floor that was not slated for removal as part of the current cafetorium renovation” for the school project.

Finance Director Warren Sproul reported that the project also seeks $16,000 to upgrade tables and chairs in the cafeteria, an expense made necessary because the new lunchroom can now accommodate more students and the old tables and chairs will not work.

Selectmen want to determine whether it is appropriate under the Pentucket Regional Agreement for the cost for the tables and chairs to be borne by the district.

The Annual Town Meeting is slated for April 29.

Selectman Glenn Kemper said he was starting to get uncomfortable with the number of times the committee is returning for additional funds. At a special Town Meeting last fall, voters approved $35,000 for enhanced lighting and access for the new gymnasium at the back of the school and $33,000 for electrical improvements, but rejected a request for $120,000 to upgrade the masonry material on one exterior wall of the new gym.

Last spring Town Meeting OK’d $745,000 from the Community Preservation Act account for a heating distribution system for the building as part of the project’s Phase II.

Kemper stressed that in order to retain credibility with voters it is important to “be true to the taxpayers.”

Despite estimates that it would cost $20 million to renovate the more than 100-year-old building for the next 20 to 30 years, voters approved just $10 million for the school project in 2010. After the state reimbursed the town $1.6 million for installation of boilers, windows and roofing as part of its Green Repair program, the cost to the taxpayers for the original project was reduced to $8.4 million.

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