, Newburyport, MA

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April 10, 2013

Officials divided over Page School funding requests

WEST NEWBURY — Town leaders are split on their support for two funding requests voters at a Special Town Meeting this month will be asked to approve for the Page School renovation project.

Selectmen Dick Cushing and Glenn Kemper support a warrant article to increase the project’s contingency fund by $159,404, but Chairman Bert Knowles does not.

The board was also split in its support for spending $105,690 from the free cash account to replace a portion of the existing gymnasium floor not currently slated for an upgrade in Phase II of the project. Cushing and Kemper favored the improvement, but Knowles preferred to leave it to a “will of the town” vote.

Support for these two initiatives is also less than 100 percent from the Finance Committee. Following a recent discussion at an open meeting with members of the Page School Building Committee, the finance panel reconsidered its unanimous decision to reject the additional contingency funds, and instead approved the expense by a vote of 3 to 2. However, it opposed the flooring upgrade — which adds to the project’s scope — by the same margin.

Prior to its decision to overturn the original vote it took on the contingency funding, Finance Committee Chairman David Archibald told Brad Dore of the building committee to “come back and talk to us” when the project runs out of contingency money. With funds still available in the contingency account, he was concerned that the scope of the project would creep up if more money were approved at this point.

That suggestion just wasn’t prudent from a construction standpoint, Dore responded. “We can’t come back at the end and say, ‘Guess what? We’re short,’” he said.

If voters turn down this warrant request his committee will have no choice but to cut the project back by $160,000 to ensure the entire job can be completed in the event of unforeseen expenses in upgrades to the aging elementary school building.

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