Cheshire May Not Be Able to Afford Reopening School
CHESHIRE, Mass. — It would likely cost the town more than $6 million to operate Cheshire Elementary School on its own, according to Town Administrator Mark Webber.
On Tuesday, Webber told the Board of Selectmen that having the town re-open the now-closed school is unlikely.
"For discussion purposes, we are in the $6 million range to operate a K-5 district…and there are a bunch of unknowns that I haven’t got to yet," he said. "But without order from this board, I don’t think I am going to go much further with it."
Webber has been researching the possibility and gathered the estimates from a conversation he had with the Adams Cheshire Regional School District's business office. With the closing of Cheshire Elementary School and amendments to the district agreement on the horizon, the Selectmen and the Advisory Board were interested in what it would cost to operate the school on their own.
Webber said the figures are based on the current kindergarten through grade five costs at CT Plunkett. The numbers break down to $3.5 million annually for operations and $2.5 in pension liability costs.
He added that building maintenance was not factored in and he said the town’s Chapter 70 and 71 reimbursements would be less. All of that would also be on top of ongoing debt service and there would be no excess and deficiency account to tap into, he said.
"That’s only $18 on the tax rate; that would bring us up to the $31 range," Chairman Robert Ciskowski joked, rejecting the idea of re-opening the school.
"It’s a done deal," Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said.
In other business, the Selectmen voted to ask the Planning Board to begin the process of crafting a recreational marijuana bylaw, including a temporary moratorium.
"I think we need to get the moratorium in place before we go through the bylaw change," Francesconi said. "The bylaw is a long-term solution and [the moratorium] is a short-term solution. This will protect us from having all of these things popping up where we don’t want."
If the town passes the moratorium at their June town meeting, it would halt the establishment of recreational marijuana facilities in town until December of 2018 and give the Planning Board time to craft a full zoning bylaw.
However, the Planning Board plans to make haste and have a moratorium document ready for the town to vote on at the June meeting.
Planning Board Chairwoman Donna DeFino added that the state’s regulations should be out in March which will allow the Planning Board to "polish" its own bylaw.
Towns have been wary of crafting zoning bylaws for recreational marijuana without knowing the state's guidelines because of possible conflicts. But, there isn't much time between when the state releases its regulations and town meeting.
"I think we can still make it work with this timeline," she said. "I kind of want to see what the final word is going to be from the state too."
The board also received a letter from Morgan Management’s, Pine Valley Mobile Home Park’s managers, attorney stating that a local contractor has been hired to do some interim patching on the park roads.
Park residents were hit with a rent increase last year and part of this increase was slated for paving. Park residents were concerned that the paving had not yet commenced and asked the board to look into it last month.
The letter stated that Morgan Management did not want to pave the road only to rip it up to install new sewage tanks. Once the tanks are installed and if the weather still permits, the paving will take place.
Park resident Ron Lancia said the contractors already did the patchwork.
"It has been done, and it’s pretty good," he said. "They put stuff down there and graded it and it is better than it was."
Ciskowski said the Selectmen will keep an eye on the park and said he was only concerned that continued maintenance projects would just delay paving.
"I just fear that there will be more systems that fail and I don’t want to continue to kick the can down the road forever," he said. "This piecemeal approach could be very costly."
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