Central Berkshire School Roof Project Needs District Vote

By Dan GigliottiiBerkshires Correspondent
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Chairman Daniel Boyle questioned the timing the of the school district's request because of the cost of holding a special town meeting.

DALTON, Mass. — The Central Berkshire Regional School District needs unanimous approval of the seven towns in the district to spend nearly million dollars to fix a school roof.

Each town must hold a special town meeting to formally decide on the matter, though inaction by any town will result in its automatic approval of the project, said Dalton Select Board Chairman John Boyle at Monday's meeting.

Berkshire Trail Elementary School in Cummington is in need of a new roof, according to school district officials who approved the $872,620 project on a vote of 10-2 on Jan. 9. The vote started the 60-day deadline ticking for the towns to decide the project.

On Monday, the Select Board committed to selecting a date for a special town meeting within the next week, causing Boyle to question the timing of the School Committee's approval of the project.

"I think it was an inopportune time for them to choose this course of action. Maybe there are reasons for it, but now we're obligated to incur the expense and the inconvenience of calling a special town meeting," Boyle said. The town holds its annual town meeting in May.

The school district will spend up to $472,205 (just under 46 percent of the total cost) for installation of a new roof and other repairs to the existing structure at Berkshire Trail. The remaining cost of the project, over 54 percent, will be reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said roof committee member Sean Nyhan. The MSBA board is expected to approve the project on Wednesday. Owner's project manager Ken Guyette reported that the MSBA's reaction to the project has been positive.

Richard Lacatell, one of the two School Committee members who voted in opposition of the project's funding, cited written comments made by Superintendent William Cameron referring to a "structural issue" in the district as reason for his skepticism.

"Personally, I'm going to oppose this and I wish that we had the budget discussion prior to this vote on the roof," Lacatell said during the committee's Jan. 9 discussion. "If you read the superintendent's introduction letter, he makes a statement that we have a structural issue or a structural problem in the district and it defies solution. If we are in debt on Berkshire Trails ... it, to a great extent, complicates the situation.

"Who pays for a school that has no children in it?"

The School Committee's discussion included questions on the MSBA reimbursement should the school close in the near future. Committee member John Les said the group is obligated to provide for the students' well-being, despite what the future may hold.

"As long as school's open and there are kids in it ... it's our responsibility to make sure that we put a roof over their head," Les said.

The proportion of funding contributed by each of the seven municipalities is based on the number of students enrolled at Berkshire Trails from each town. By this calculation, Windsor and Cummington will pay the majority of the local funding needed to complete the project, upon its approval.

Based on preliminary estimates given by Dalton Town Manager Kenneth Walto, the town is responsible for paying approximately 4 percent. The percentage was derived by Walto based on the cost of a previous project to install a heating furnace.

Should the project be approved, a design will be created by the end of June and construction is slated to conclude in October, according to Nyhan.

Boyle said towns can seek a referendum to avoid debt incurred from the project, which it can accomplish with annual town meeting approval.

The scheduling of special town meeting requires 14 days notice, including determination of a meeting location. Boyle requested that Walto produce a number of viable recommendations for a meeting date by Monday.

Since Town Moderator Ronald Marcella recently stepped down from his position, its vacancy must be filled to validate special town meeting. A citizen will be nominated at the time of the meeting and act as temporary town moderator.

Tags: CBRSD,   MSBA,   school project,   Selectmen,   special town meeting,   

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