WEST NEWBURY — Voters at a Special Town Meeting on Thursday were split on approval of three building upgrades for the Dr. John C. Page Elementary School.
The 124 voters who met in the Town Annex approved a request from the Board of Selectmen for $35,000 to enhance lighting and access for an entrance lobby that will connect a proposed gymnasium to the existing school building by adding more doors and windows than required under state building codes.
They also OK’d $33,000 for electrical improvements that will address frequent tripping of panels and the possible need for heating feeders or branch circuits within the original building.
But they rejected a plan to spend $120,000 to change the masonry material from colored concrete to brick on the western facing wall of the new gym. The western facing wall is the one closest to the parking lot.
Brad Dore of the Page School Building Committee said these were three improvements included in the original scope of work that were moved to a list of alternative upgrades as a cost-saving measure early on in the project. If voters anticipate wanting these upgrades at some point, the most cost-effective time to add them is now, Dore said.
Voters liked the idea of broadening accessibility to the highly trafficked entrance way to the gym and supported improving the aging school’s electrical system.
But ultimately they rejected a plan to bring a portion of the new gym’s exterior more in line with the iconic brick of the 100 year-old school building. With so many potential unforeseen costs looming on this project and other projects in town, it was simply a case of “nice to have versus necessary,” said Jean Lambert.
Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles, who voted against the masonry upgrade, said he would rather see the money used “for further projects to enhance education.” And Tom Atwood reminded voters that the regional middle and high schools were also facing costly renovation or replacements projects in the not too distant future.