Tomlinson project cut as RTM wrangles over school proposals
Published 7:22 am, Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Accusations of miscommunication permeated the Representative Town Meeting's discussion of $350,000 in bonding for two school projects Monday with the result that one of the proposals -- $250,000 for facade work at Tomlinson Middle School -- got postponed.
The second project, a request for $100,000 to replace a 33-year-old underground oil tank at Holland Hill School did pass, but not after a prolonged debate. State law requires older tanks be removed or the town could face fines.
Much of the debate on both items centered on what many RTM members called a lack of detailed information provided by school officials, and what others said were differing opinions from the Town Facilities Commission and the Board of Education.
For the Tomlinson facade work, the missing detail involved the costs to protect the site while lead paint is removed from the wood work being repaired or, in some cases, replaced. Thomas Cullen, the school board's facilities manager, said that was estimated at about $20,000.
The question of whether it was a matter of safety was also debated, with Cullen said there was a possibility of rotting wood falling from the facade. He also said the outer doors also do not shut completely, which is necessary if a fire broke out.
And it was mentioned that the TFC apparently didn't support this project, but TFC Chairman Al Kelly said that assertion is not true.
"It's very concerning how this is moving forward," Majority Leader James Millington, R-9, said. "Maybe prior to a year and a half ago we did not ask for this detail, we just rubberstamped. " But he said in light of the large difference between cost estimates given for work at Sherman School and the actual price tag, he said detailed cost breakdowns are needed.
He also suggested the school board's priorities regarding the projects that need to be done now "seem out of line." To get more detailed cost estimates, John Mitola, school board chairman, said would require that an architect be hired.
Cullen said he could provide a complete cost break down for the RTM's next meeting.
As for the oil tank replacement, the legislative body went round and round on whether the tank should simply be removed, or removed and replaced, and if were to be replaced, with what size tank should be installed. Currently, the schools have dual fuel capabilities, although because of lower cost primarily use natural gas unless there is an emergency and heating oil needs to used.
Eventually, after Superintendent of Schools David Title gave his agreement, the RTM approved the $100,000 for the tank removal, leaving the decision regarding replacement up to the Board of Selectmen.
The school board wants to do the tank work over the summer months, and if delayed any further, that would not be possible, Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Pam Iacono said.
Millington questioned whether the project should take that long, since it takes only about two weeks to do a similar project at a residential property. Cullen said the town needs to draw up bid specifications and then seek bids on the work before awarding the job. He said once the tank is removed, the soil must be tested to determine if any oil has leaked.