|Lanesborough to Fund Repairs at Town Hall, Elementary School|
|By Jeff Snoonian, iBerkshires Correspondent|
04:01AM / Thursday, October 10, 2019
|The Lanesborough Selectmen settle some building issues Tuesday night.|
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Superintendent of Schools Kim Grady kicked off the Selectmen's meeting Tuesday night seeking funds to pay for repairs to the heating system at Lanesborough Elementary School.
During a routine inspection, the glycol in the system was found to be in need of flushing and replacement. The material is also corroding other parts of the system but that will be addressed in a separate bid.
"When we had some heating issues last year, Barclay Inc. provided the report. We started the process on it," the Mount Greylock Regional superintendent said. "The freeze point on it was 10 degrees above (zero Fahrenheit) which is not good in the Berkshires. We put a scope of work out that went out to bid in July. We called several different companies and struggled to get three proposals."
The district requires that school heating systems must be on and operational by Oct. 15 of any given year. This forced the hand of the district to perform the minimum amount of repairs to get the system up and running safely.
"At this point now ... turning it on in its entirety without doing this is going to cause a problem in the system."
The lowest quote received by the town was about $42,000. The town would be on the hook for $37,000 with the rest coming from the school district.
Town Manager Kelli Robbins went through the process of funding the repair with the board.
"We were aware of this potential issue last school season but we didn't have any numbers to budget for it so there isn't anything actually in the budget for this," she said. "Citing MGL Section 31 of General Law 44, you can declare an emergency because a catastrophe which poses an immediate threat to health and safety, which if the building freezes and the kids are there and the heat goes out certainly qualifies, by a majority vote by the Board of Selectmen. That gives us permission to fund the money to pay the bill."
Robbins outlined for the board the ramifications should it choose to eschew the emergency declaration:
"If we don't do it under this [emergency clause] then we have to have a special town meeting. We can't have a special town meeting until the middle of November. Which means the tax rate won't be set on time, which means the bills won't go out on time, which means the money won't come in on time, which means we're going to incur interest and we may have to borrow."
The board ultimately decided to declare the emergency condition and will fund the repair without going to a special town meeting. The work is expected to take place over the upcoming Columbus Day weekend.
Column repairs at Town Hall are expected to cost about $85,000. Board Chairman John Goerlach asked if the town already had the money set aside. The board recalled $50,000 being voted for out of free cash at town meeting but Robbins had an additional $82,000 set aside.
"Where did you get 82 if the townspeople only approved 50?" asked Goerlach.
"Because we had budgeted a very large amount for a school bill that was actually not necessary so we shifted the money," Robbins said. "It was a bill (from FY '19) for out-of-district placement, which we didn't need because the child aged out."
The original budget was estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000 so the $85,000 low bid came as a surprise. The prospect of reopening the process was not discussed as there was an agreement it was doubtful they would get any lower numbers.
"I don't think you'll see a price drop until the economy slows down and there's less work," said Goerlach.
In other business, remote participation was discussed for town boards and committees and there was some apprehension by the board. Member Hank Sayers wanted to make sure the practice was used only when necessary and not as an accepted form of board membership.
"When they take that commitment to be on the board they shouldn't be away three or six months out of state. They're not a resident in my mind," he said. "Like snowbirds going to Florida."
Robbins stressed it is more to guarantee quorums and accommodate work schedules.
"It could be a convenience thing if there's a reason for it but you can't just abuse it. It's not something that can be used willy nilly," she said.
The topic was tabled and will be taken up at a future meeting.
Lanesborough is looking to hook up a generator to Town Hall. The town bought a refurbished military generator that was expected to be powerful enough to handle the entire building. That may not be the case.
"We bought a generator that we were told would power the entire building. Gable Electric came in and said that it would not run the entire building," Robbins told the board.
Goerlach was confident the dealer would deliver on his promise of an upgrade should the generator not be powerful enough.
"The guy that deals with these generators is a good guy. He'll make good on this I'm sure," he said.
The trick-or-treat hours were set from 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 31. Residents are asked to drive cautiously since children will be out and about.
The next Selectmen's meeting will be Monday, Oct. 21, at 6 p.m.