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Mohawk seeks OK for school building projects

The Buckland Shelburne Elementary School.  Recorder/Paul Franz

The Buckland Shelburne Elementary School. Recorder/Paul Franz

BUCKLAND — At town meeting time, the Mohawk Trail Regional School District will be asking member towns to approve “Phase I” school building capital plans and the borrowing, in 2015, of $1,686,428 for school building repairs to be made in the coming school year.

Town officials and Mohawk community members are invited to a “Mohawk School Buildings Capital Projects Summit” on April 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Superintendent’s Conference Room of the Mohawk Trail Regional School, where they can get answers about proposed capital projects at Mohawk and its four elementary schools.

Currently, School Committee members are going to selectmen’s meetings to present information about these school improvement projects, which are to be completed by January. However, the money for the loan repayment wouldn’t be assessed to the towns until the fiscal year that begins July 2015.

Too many buildings?

The subject has also raised questions among town officials, because all five school buildings have unused space. In the past, the Mohawk committee Chairman Robert Aeschback has remarked that all the district’s roughly 500 elementary students could fit into one school — the Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School — and yet the district can’t close any of its elementary schools without town meeting approval from all towns.

“We’ve got a lot of school buildings and not a lot of kids,” Shelburne Selectman Joseph Judd remarked. “We are leaning toward being unsustainable.

“We have to look at a regional agreement that worked in 1990, but doesn’t work for us now. And even before the regional agreement itself can be changed, all the towns now have to vote for (other towns’ school projects.)”

Judd is also on the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s Long-Range Planning Committee, which is exploring ways to keep down educational costs, in view of a drop in student-age population.

In Buckland last week, school Business Administrator Joanne Blier told selectmen that Phase I would be the most costly, because “there’s a lot at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary that has to be done up front.” For Phase 1, BSE costs, to be shared by both towns, will be $783,900, but in Phases II and III, the costs will be much less.

If the school district takes out a five-year loan, she said, Buckland would be assessed about $32,000 per year for its share of the Mohawk work, plus pay $61,217 a year over the same period of BSE improvements.

When asked if Buckland has to vote for building projects it isn’t paying for — in Heath, Ashfield and Colrain, Blier explained that, for the district to borrow one loan, it needs approval for all projects from all member towns. But actual voting for out-of-town school projects won’t be necessary: Blier said that towns can vote “yes” or “no” on all the capital projects, or just take a vote on the high school and their own elementary school projects.

Doing nothing will constitute a “yes” vote for the other school projects, she explained. This is the same process that was done for the roof and window Green Repair projects a year ago. She said it enables the school district to borrow one loan, to be divided up for the various school projects.

She said the Mohawk middle/high school improvements will require unanimous approval from all eight towns, with assessments staggered over the term of the loan.

Phase I projects:

Mohawk Trail Regional School: $542,778 for drainage improvements, repaving parking lot, caulking metal joints on windows, re-pointing boiler room chimney, electrical vault masonry. It also included floor replacement in the library and along hallway corridors, rebuilding the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in the library, gym and auditorium. The cost would be divided among the eight member towns according to the Mohawk regional agreement assessment formula.

Buckland Shelburne Elementary: $783,900 for repair and replacement of sidewalks, repaving parking lots; re-caulking brick masonry to aluminum window frames; repairs to damaged brick, tile replacement in classrooms in original building and addition, HVAC repairs. Buckland and Shelburne would pay 100 percent for these improvements, dividing up the assessment according to the regional agreement.

Sanderson Academy: $228,850 for drainage improvements, sidewalk repairs and replacement; add snow bars and heat tracing on roof structures; recaulking windows; and major service to the Bioclere sanitary water treatment system. Ashfield and Plainfield would shoulder the cost, according to their assessment formula.

Colrain Central School: $42,400 for recaulking window frames, replacing flooring on corridor entry area, replacing rear sidewalks and replace the first step of the 1952 exterior stairs. Colrain would pay for this.

Heath Elementary School: $88,500 to replace damaged sections of concrete walkways; dig out and replace surface drainage below eaves; replace insulation that has lost its efficiency; replace carpet in multi-purpose area and replace carpeting in classrooms. Heath would pay for this.

Phase II would be implemented five years from now, and Phase III 10 years from now; both would include replacement or repairs in school buildings as needed.

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

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