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Rowe votes ‘no’ on $100k reserve for school leach field

  • Susan Zavotka explains the School Building Committee's request for stabilization funds, to be put aside in case the new Rowe Elementary School needs a new leach field.<br/>Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

    Susan Zavotka explains the School Building Committee's request for stabilization funds, to be put aside in case the new Rowe Elementary School needs a new leach field.
    Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

  • Rowe School Building Committee Chairwoman Susan Zavotka explains the need for stabilization funds at Rowe's special town meeting.<br/>Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

    Rowe School Building Committee Chairwoman Susan Zavotka explains the need for stabilization funds at Rowe's special town meeting.
    Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

  • Susan Zavotka explains the School Building Committee's request for stabilization funds, to be put aside in case the new Rowe Elementary School needs a new leach field.<br/>Recorder/Diane Broncaccio
  • Rowe School Building Committee Chairwoman Susan Zavotka explains the need for stabilization funds at Rowe's special town meeting.<br/>Recorder/Diane Broncaccio

ROWE — Enough voters aren’t willing to set aside $100,000 in case the new Rowe Elementary School needs a new leach field. The request failed to get the two-thirds vote needed at a special town meeting this week. At least 73 “yes” votes were required but the proposal got only 61.

Douglas Wilson said he voted against building a new school, but since the town is already going forward with construction, it didn’t make sense to scrimp on building design issues.

Paul McLatchy III said the old school building had been slated for roughly $300,000 in capital improvements — including a new roof and new carpeting — before it burned down in 2012. He argued that the $100,000 request was for less money.

Several residents pointed out that, when concerns about the leach field came up during the May vote to rebuild the school, residents were assured all the money for the $6.7 million project would come from insurance proceeds.

“It frightens me to see that people see this (capitalization fund) as some kind of cookie jar they can reach into whenever they want,” said Myra Carlow, a former Finance Committee member.

According to School Building Committee Chairwoman Susan Zavotka, an “unofficial” Title 5 septic system inspection was done on the school grounds last April, when there was heavy snow melt. She said the soil above the leach field was very wet, and there was water on the distribution boxes, which were exposed.

Since then, she said, the School Building Committee has made plans to replace the septic tank and the distribution boxes, which will be placed deeper into the ground than the old system. To get its permit, the building committee went to the town Board of Health, and got permission to go forward with the school building project if a $100,000 contingency is set aside in case the system doesn’t meet state Title 5 requirements, once the school is up and running.

The money will now have to come from cuts in other aspects of the building.

Zavotka said the building committee wanted to use stabilization funds for this contingency instead of insurance money, so that the insurance money could be used for expenditures that will be needed. If the septic system works fine, with its new tank and distribution boxes, Zavotka doesn’t know if the town would be able to keep that $100,000 in insurance contingency money for other school building needs — since the building would already be complete and in use.

Zavotka said the committee “wanted this to be a town decision,” and it wanted the answers before planning expenditures for furniture and other school building items.

Other issues approved

All other issues on Thursday’s special town meeting warrant were approved. These included:

∎  $5,789 more for the Town Hall custodian, whose work hours will go up from eight per week to 15, so that she can clean the Gracy House, Fire Station, and Highway Garage bathrooms.

∎  $2,500 more for the town treasurer’s stipend.

∎  $3,964 to pay for Fire Department equipment including: emergency reporting software, a keyless entry system for the fire station, a digital training projector and a hose tower safety item.

∎  $10,000 for legal expenses.

∎  $14,357 for a new Fire Station oil tank, to cover flag holders for veterans’ graves and to cover a Town Hall elevator contract.

∎  $1,590 for bullet-proof vests for the Police Department.

∎  $9,655 to cover accrued vacation time and sick time of former Town Coordinator Ellen Miller, who has retired.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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