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SBA Tour Brings Hope of State Aid to Mount Greylock

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Rep. Denis Guyer, left, Andrew Hogeland, Robert Ericson and SBA's Katherine Craven and Brian Mclaughlin tour Mount Greylock. Top: Craven checks the collapsed ceiling; right: Ericson and Craven put their heads together.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The state could pick up half the estimated $1.5 million cost of replacing boilers and drooping ceilings in the lockerrooms at Mount Greylock Regional High School.

"The problem in the locker rooms sort of elevates your status, and rockets it to our attention," said Katherine Craven, executive director of the state School Building Authority, after a hard-hat tour of the closed-off areas. Craven also was shown the 183,000-square-foot building's three antiquated heating boilers and pumping system.

Mount Greylock should know by Sept. 30 whether the SBA will provide 54 percent of the funding for both projects. Craven seemed optimistic but cautioned that the final decision was up to her board.

Longstanding problems in the aging building came to a head in May, when a large section of ceiling fell down in the girls' locker room because of faulty construction. A survey of other ceilings found the same too-short nails in a boys' locker room (and a drooping ceiling) and ceiling hot-water tanks were removed from the same area because of structural support concerns.

Replacement of the heating boilers, first installed in 1960 and 1968, has been discussed for several years. The old furnaces have entailed nearly $20,000 in repairs over the past few years and one is no longer functioning. The building itself has little insulation, School Committee member Robert Ericsson told Craven, and on more than one occasion, students have worn coats and sweaters during classes to stay warm.

The pumping system is in
as a bad a shape as the heating boilers.
The school district is estimating spending up to $1.5 million; the figure could change based on boiler options. In a brief School Committee meeting prior to the tour, a quorum authorized the formal notification process to the school district's towns of its intent to bond the work (setting the high number at $2 million in case.)

School officials are hoping to reduce the amount by pursuing grants and other governmental funding but were unsure if the SBA would help pay for the work. The district's statement of interest in possible new construction two years ago had not made the authority's priority list and it's second, pared-down statement last fall had elicited no firm response.

The school district asked for emergency funding after the ceiling collapse.

Craven said the school didn't have "the perfect storm of overcrowding and a bad building" at the time of its first request. Since then, the most desparate schools had been taken care of, leaving the SBA ready to look at districts with just bad buildings.

Also in the district's favor is the fact that a lot of preparation work has been done in terms of engineering studies. The SBA, however, will also require a budget and copies of the request for proposals before its seven-member board meets Sept. 30.

Andrew Hogeland, chairman of the Building Committee, told her the request for proposals for the ceiling work was ready. "We want to make sure we're following the process so we don't jeopardize any state funds," he said.

Craven scopes out the school's outdated science labs. Superintendent William Travis is in red.
Craven spent about 45 minutes surveying several areas of the school, with Ericson as guide, along with Hogeland, state Rep. Denis E. Guyer, who represents Lanesborough, Superintendent William Travis, Town Managers Peter Fohlin of Williamstown and Paul Boudreau of Lanesborough and other committee members and staff.

A meeting with with board members afterward was taped for broadcast on Willinet. She also spent time checking the science labs that were on the school's request list last year.

Repair work like Mount Greylock's "flies through our process," said Craven, but renovation to the science labs and several other sections should probably be worked through as a collaborative process, along with other areas that need upgrades.

She's also taking a little bit of Mount Greylock back to the SBA board: a chunk of crumbly ceiling plaster.

"This makes it real. A picture is worth a thousand words but there's nothing like feeling it yourself."
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Williams-Led Research Team Awarded $1.6M Grant

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Ron Bassar, assistant professor of biology at Williams College, has been awarded a  grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). 
The three-year, $1.6 million dollar grant will support research aimed at understanding how temporal variation in ecological and evolutionary processes allow similar species to coexist. 
The project, titled "The Evolution of Fluctuation-dependent Species Coexistence," integrates theoretical and empirical research in four experimental communities of Trinidadian guppies and killifish on the Caribbean island of Trinidad.
"Understanding the processes that allow similar species to coexist has been a longstanding question in ecology and evolution," Bassar said. "It is important because diversity is a defining characteristic of natural ecosystems. Traditional explanations for coexistence have focused on static differences between species. This research will be among the first to explore the possibility that differences in species responses to intra-annual environmental variation can allow species to coexist."
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