, Newburyport, MA

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November 12, 2012

Voters approve two of three building upgrades at Page School


John McGrath felt that because the original funding was approved through a ballot initiative, any further spending for the project should also be brought to voters at the polls. He also suggested that concrete block walls might lend themselves to more creativity for murals than a brick wall would.

Rick Parker of the Energy Advisory Committee argued for taking steps now during the construction phase to allow for the installation of solar energy panels down the road.

Although he originally favored the masonry upgrade, Selectman Glenn Kemper told voters that after recently reviewing a list of items for Phase III of the project, he’s changed his mind.

Still, Kemper assured voters that all items that were critical safety issues for the school building had been or would addressed with money already funded for the project.

And he applauded the building committee for bringing these additional upgrades — which he described as cosmetic and not critical — back again for Town Meeting approval.

The original cost to renovate the school to extend its life for the next 20 to 30 years was $20 million. However, voters approved just $10 million for the project at a Special Town Meeting in 2010. At the time, voters were told any money received through the state’s Green School Repair Program would be used to reduce that funding authorization.

The state has reimbursed the town $1.6 million for installation of boilers, windows and roofing during Phase I of the project, bringing the cost to the taxpayers for the original project down to $8.4 million. According to the Finance Committee appropriation’s booklet, as of Oct. 9, Phase I is “substantially complete” with 8 percent remaining unspent in the $3.4 million allocated for this phase.

This spring voters agreed to move $745,000 from the Community Preservation Act account for a heating distribution system for the building as part of the project’s Phase II. To date, $837,675 has been spent and 96 percent of the total $7.5 million Phase II budget has been committed.

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