District starts capital planning

Milton School Board members and district administrators stand in the Milton High School gym, where moisture has caused the new floor to buckle. Officials are starting to plan which fixes should come first after a $5.9 million bond to renovate key student spaces failed this month. (File photo by Courtney Lamdin)

Milton School Board members and district administrators stand in the Milton High School gym, where moisture has caused the new floor to buckle. Officials are starting to plan which fixes should come first after a $5.9 million bond to renovate key student spaces failed this month. (File photo by Courtney Lamdin)

In response to its failed $5.9 million renovation vote this month, the Milton School Board authorized spending $92,000 to build a facility master plan to track future expenditures on Monday night.

The chosen contractors, Scott + Partners and LN Consulting, will assess all 300,000 square feet of both school buildings and will deliver:

•    An assessment of existing facilities, including interiors, exteriors, electrical systems and codes;
•    A system to track improvements and costs,
•    A space planning study,
•    A capital improvement plan and means to update it and
•    An outline of major capital projects.

The entire process is expected to take nine weeks, contract documents show.

The board approved the proposal unanimously, 4-0, with Chairman Doug Stout absent. The cost will be split between each schools’ maintenance budget, Facilities Director Chris Giard said.

The goal is to answer taxpayers’ question of “what’s next?” after the cafeteria and locker room projects, had they passed. Giard estimates the district has $27 million of deferred maintenance.

But, according to board discussion, there aren’t any concrete plans when those renovations might re-emerge.

By law, schools can’t present the same or a similar public improvement vote more than twice in a calendar year or 12-month period; since the first renovation ballot was March 5, it can’t appear on this Town Meeting ballot, set for March 4, 2014, Superintendent John Barone said.

Board member Jim Lyons said despite the disappointingly low turnout – only 675, less than 10 percent of registered voters – he believes “no means no.” He’d prefer to wait until a group of citizens leads the charge or until the 1997 bond for the Herrick Avenue school expansion lapses in FY18.

“The sense I get from the people is that their budgets are just simply stretched to the limit,” Lyons said. “No matter what the project and how much they’re for it, it’s going to be hard to get a vote to extract money.”

Reg Godin said less than 700 voters isn’t enough to judge what the people think. He and Board Clerk Eric Houghton expressed concern so few people voted on an issue that affects student safety.

Godin said it might come down to making emergency fixes. Houghton took the worst-case-scenario route, saying it will take a student getting hurt, the school shutting down or a lawsuit to convince people to spend the funds.

“Those are all plausible things that could happen tomorrow,” he said, noting he sympathizes with taxpayers’ thinning wallets, but waiting could be more costly.

Godin agreed: “It’s an issue that could come back to haunt this board and this community if these concerns are not dealt with rather soon,” he said.

Giard strongly encouraged the district to go out for another vote, as soon as legally possible. He estimated the wait could add up to $600,000 to the bottom line.

 

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