One of the emerging concerns regarding the besides the overall price tag of the project itself, is whether the town should include in it a $325,000 plan to install lights at the school’s athletic fields.
Many of those who attended the finance board’s meeting on the project Wednesday night said the lights represent just a fraction of the project’s costs and would provide a significant community asset, one that goes well beyond simply allowing night games for school teams. It would let the town to host a variety of activities at night at the school, programs that would be a huge morale booster for local kids and a community bonding experience for the town.
But in the end, it was the lights, and a $900,000 proposal to move the Board of Education offices from their current location in the village into the renovated that sunk the high school plan Wednesday night.
The finance board, citing concerns with the $52 million proposal, as well as the community’s ability to pay for the 20-year loans on it, voted 5-2 to against it. State reimbursements would pay 52 percent of the costs of the project, leaving the town to pay about $26 million for it.
After the vote, however, some dissenters on the board appeared to have a slight change of heart, telling the standing-room only crowd of supporters that they would support the project and take a new vote if the building committee agreed to remove from the plan the athletic field lights and the proposal to move the BOE offices into the renovated school.
While some supporters appeared eager to make that change immediately, some in the audience expressed anger that the finance board was haggling over what they described as a very small cost in the overall project.
Glenn Gustine, of Mott Hill Road, said that under the financing package the lights and BOE office relocation would come out to just $3 per taxpayer, per year over the 20-year life of the loan.
“Really? We’re going to vote this down over $3?” He managed to bring a bit of levity to an otherwise tense situation by then promising to pay the $3 annually debt for everyone in the room if the BOF would approve the lights.
The finance board’s effort to bring the school bond authorization back up for a vote eventually failed because removing the BOE relocation proposal from it would have changed the scope of the project to the point where the school building committee would need to vote on it again.
The building committee is scheduled to meet tonight on the high school project, but it’s unclear whether the panel will discuss or vote on changing the scope of the project.
The committee had wanted to get the high school project before voters in a town wide referendum by the end of April in order to submit the plans to the state by a June 30 deadline.
Besides the cost of the project, several members of the finance board said they felt the building committee had not provided them with enough information on the project, including a more detailed breakdown of the costs.
In turn, supporters of the project said they were irked that some members of the finance board seemed to have concerns or questions about that project that they had never brought before the building committee before.
“I am very upset,” said board member Mary Ann Dostaler. The board for months, she added, has known about the project and its costs and some members have not done enough to seek out information on questions they have about it before it came up for a vote.
“I find if offensive that the board has been so tone deaf to the (building) committee and to the citizenry,” she said. “I find it just incredulous.”
Dostaler and board member Dave Monighetti voted in favor of the high school renovation plan. Board members Ted Turner, Matthew Walton, Patience Anderson, Timothy Csere and Tom O'Brien voted against it.