Re-revised Sherman School bonding package heads to RTM
The bonding package for renovations and an addition at Sherman School -- nearly doubled from the initial amount by the selectmen, but cut back by the finance panel -- returns for consideration Monday by the Representative Town Meeting.
The session gets under way at 8 p.m. in Osborn Hill School.
The Board of Selectmen earlier this month approved an increase in the bonds from the initial $2.2 million to $3.9 million after bids for the project came in higher than expected. The Board of Finance, however, cut the increased amount to $3 million.
Finance board Chairman Thomas Flynn said the panel supports the Sherman project, but when they reviewed the $3.9 million request there were questions about its scope and whether it had changed since the project first was approved in February.
"In specific, there appeared to be approximately $400,000 in incremental funding included in the request to allow for the installation of an energy retention system," Flynn said, with the goal to saved on future operating costs. It was not, however, part of the scope of work approved in February. "There was also some question over the scope of work for some ventilation work in some common areas -- this item was unclear to the board -- though the need for ventilation in the entire school was acknowledged."
As proposed, the work at Sherman School was to be done over three years, in part to keep under the FEMA regulations that cap construction costs to $2 million because the school is in a floodplain. The work also was staggered because some of the funding is based on estimates for work that would be done in future years.
"To put it into context, we had approved the $2.2 million in February based on estimates which turned out to be substantially inaccurate," Flynn said. "Now, we were being asked to approve significant funding for work to be done three years from now -- based on estimates."
That, he said, left finance board members skeptical of estimates for the future work.
Working with the Sherman Building Committee, the finance board approved the work in the cafeteria, the administration areas, security upgrades and ventilation in the classrooms. It was agreed that work on ventilation in the all-purpose room and gym would be set aside and addressed after firmer cost estimates are obtained.
"The board felt, in this manner, we could address the immediate needs of the school and move forward a critical component, the classroom ventilation, that would not have been addressed for several years," Flynn said, "while being fiscally prudent by allowing for better estimates to be obtained for work to be done at a later date."
Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Pam Iacono, who also sits on the building committee, said the energy recovery system could possibly still be installed if there is money left in the contingency account when the other work is finished, but not the ventilation for the common areas.
"We have to be mindful to stay under the $2 million FEMA cap," she said. "If we go over that, or there is no money in contingency, we can't do the energy recovery."
Iacono said a positive result from the finance board action is that the project will no longer be done over three years. "We would be able to do the classroom ventilation work next summer," she said. "If it is approved by the RTM, we can get a shovel in ground in November and by February finish the administrative wing and kitchen work."