WEST NEWBURY -- Selectmen learned recently that their plan to use rental income from the Children’s Castle childcare center to upgrade tables and chairs for the newly renovated Page Elementary School cafeteria is not legally allowed.
Money in that account must only be used for capital improvements on the school facility, said Town Counsel Michael McCarron. The Children’s Castle is housed within a portion of the Page School.
Instead, the board agreed to tap the Building and Grounds operating expense account for the town’s $9,000 contribution toward the $14,000 needed for the new furniture -- and then hopefully replenish that account with a vote at town meeting this fall. Selectmen Glenn Kemper and Joe Anderson approved the funds, but Chairman Bert Knowles abstained.
Knowles favored having the school district work with the Page School Building Committee to cover the cost using funds from a contingency account established for an ongoing $10 million renovation project at Page.
But Kemper said, “I’m not touching that contingency fund.”
Voters at a Special Town Meeting this spring agreed to increase the project’s contingency by $159,404 with an appropriation from the Free Cash with the understanding that the funds would only be used to cover worse-case scenarios as the project wraps up this fall. At that time they also approved an additional $105,690 to replace flooring in the renovated cafetorium that was not part of the scope for the current project.
For its part, the Pentucket Regional School District has agreed to kick in $5,000 toward the purchase of the 14 cafeteria-style tables with chairs. The district plans to cover the unanticipated expense with money it realizes in savings in heating costs at Page School due to a new, more energy efficient heating system installed as part of the Page renovation project.
Page Principal Jack O’Mara said he views the upgrade as an important component of the school district’s goal to streamline lunch services by having enough seating to accommodate the school’s two largest grades at one lunch sitting.