Financiers to selectmen: Restore bonding for Jennings School boilers
A request for funds to replace the 50-year-old boilers at Jennings School got a warm reception at the Board of Finance last week after being cut from the list of non-recurring capital projects by the Board of Selectmen.
The finance board postponed a vote on the nearly $5 million package of town and school projects until Feb. 17 and passed a sense-of-the-body resolution that asks the selectmen to consider restoring the $382,000 elementary school's boilers to the bonding package. The board also asked that the town's bond counsel be at its next meeting.
The bonding package totals $4.8 million and includes $1.75 million for a system-wide security upgrades to the public school buildings. The requests initially received by the Board of Selectmen totaled nearly $10 million before it was trimmed.
Some finance board members argued that the school security upgrades should not be included with the non-recurring capital projects, but should be considered separately. The two-year project is expected to cost a total of $3.2 million, and the selectmen put off bonding for those items that will not be completed in the first year of the project.
Among the upgrades are "intrusion" film for windows, a visitor management system and security cameras.
But First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the finance board last year warned against adding any further security funding into the operating budget after money for extra officers to specifically cover schools was added.
"What's before us is security infrastructure," Walsh said. "That was labor. You said you'd be back with a security plan."
Finance Chairman Thomas Flynn agreed that during last year's budget deliberations, the need for a district-wide security plan was discussed. "I don't like the optics of it being of the $9 million. I do think it's a separate plan. That's what we asked for."
Flynn said he did agree with breaking the project into two separate phases for funding.
As for the Jennings boilers, the finance board felt postponing their replacement could lead to costlier problems. If they were to break down completely during the cold months, Superintendent of Schools David Title said it would take several weeks to install replacements. That would mean, he said, re-assigning its students to other schools in the district. That is what happened when McKinley School was shut down because of mold infestation a number of years ago. All students would go to McKinley in the morning to board buses for other elementary schools. Each grade was sent to a different school.
The Jennings boilers are the oldest in the district, while the heating equipment in other local schools has been replaced.