|Dalton Board Discusses Possibility of New Wahconah Track |
|By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff |
12:42PM / Wednesday, August 31, 2022
|Wahconah officials are asking put unused funds for the high school project toward a new track. Town officials are weighing whether it might better as a capital project. |
Update on Sept. 2, 2022:
Rich Peters, co-chair of the Wahconah building project, contacted iBerkshires on Thursday and said the track may have events next year but that the school could receive a warning and not be able to use it the following year if it was not fixed. The rubber, he said, was not so much peeling as worn off exposing asphalt, not cement, and the running shoes have micro spikes, not nails.
Most importantly, he noted that the $2 million being discussed by the board does not actually exist — it simply won't be borrowed.
"There will be no monies being returned to the towns," he wrote. "This only impacts the total amount that the district will have to go for the final bond, to complete the funding for the entire project."
DALTON, Mass. — Town officials are mulling the use of $2 million in school building funds toward a new track at Wahconah Regional High School.
Superintendent Leslie Blake-Davis told the Select Board prior to Monday's meeting that the school building project is under budget by $2 million and asked for members opinion about expanding the scope for a new track.
An engineer confirmed that the track is in need of repair and does not meet state standards. If repairs are not completed, then the track team would have to bus to other areas, which would be an added operational cost.
Sports facilities like playing fields and tracks are not part of the Massachusetts School Building Authority scope of work.
"And six out of seven towns attended a Seven Town Advisory Committee and one of the members from Windsor is actually an official, a [former] state official for track. And he has shared that the condition of the track is that if we don't do something, they will not be able to have track events beginning next year," Select Board Chair Joseph Diver said at Monday's meeting.
"And when you look at the track, the rubber on top is peeling away the cement patches. So when the track teams are running, they run on shoes that have nail spikes on them, and then you can easily slip and fall. So we did basically support that idea of moving forward in that direction."
Last Thursday, the School Committee voted to use a sectional town-by-town vote, meaning if any one town votes it down it won't pass.
Central Berkshire Regional School District will be working with the select boards of each town and will present a formal presentation with will be made available on their website.
The last time the track was resurfaced was 20 years ago. The cost of a new track is estimated at $750,000 but the district is asking for $900,000 to cover contingencies.
School officials looked into just resurfacing the track but because the condition below is so poor, a resurfacing still would not meet the state requirements.
Select Board member John Boyle said his position on the track would be to postpone it and take the $2 million left over and apply it proportionally to each town. He recommended waiting till next spring and during the budget season, making it a capital item to cover the cost of the repair or rebuilding of the track.
"It would be a nice gesture, it would do away with some of the bitterness that encompasses the last election. And it would be good optics and it would be clean," he said.
Diver said Boyle raised a good point but safety is also a factor in the decision to rebuild the track.
"I think you brought up a very good point about the $2 million being returned. That was the point that the seven towns also asked. And what we learned is that the finance part of the building committee actually hasn't gone out for that bond yet," he said.
"So we actually only have $2 million to get back it because we haven't gotten to get that financing yet, as the School Committee, and then when it became a safety issue, that's when we all kind of leaned in a little bit."
The board is not taking a position on this discussion yet until the presentation and public hearing with the superintendent.
In other news:
• The board appointed Jennifer Richard as recording secretary, effective Aug. 30.
• Christine Bialobok was appointed as assistant accountant, effective Aug. 30.
• Patricia Mele-Nichols was appointed as assistant town clerk, effective Sept. 19.