|By Courtney Llewellyn|
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM More than two dozen interested parties attended the first Concerned Citizens of Wilbraham (CCW) meeting of the new year last Thursday at the Wilbraham Middle School to hear updates discuss their concerns on various town projects. The meeting resulted in a positive outlook, with CCW Chair Robert Page stating, "Our town is run fairly well and we are fortunate for that."
The issue that has been on the minds of Wilbraham and Hampden residents alike for more than three years is the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) and its plans for Minnechaug Regional High School. If and when the high school is selected to receive funds from the Commonwealth, either for a renovation of the current structure or the building of a completely new one, a large portion of that cost will fall on the two towns' shoulders.
"At the school's last meeting with the MSBA, they were encouraged to continue seeking a project manager," Page told those in attendance. "I find this to be the most encouraging thing I've heard in three and a half years. Fall has been mentioned several times as a starting point. This means that sometime between May and September, we need to reach an agreement to figure out what's going to happen, who's going to do it and when it's going to start."
The state of Massachusetts will cover no less than 31 percent of the cost for either the renovation or construction project but Page said there is a possibility it will cover up to 60 percent. That means that for every $1 million the project costs, it will cost each Wilbraham household approximately $17 each and that amount will decrease every year, thanks to a debt exclusion override, which is different from a standard override, which remains the same over time, Page explained.
The pool roof at the high school continues to be an issue for the CCW as well. In the January/February issue of the organization's newsletter, "Eagle Eye News," an article stated that Phil Steiger of Steiger Engineering, after inspecting the roof with Wilbraham building inspector Lance Trevallion, said that "though there has been deterioration of the structural support of the roof members, the pool is safe for use." Trevallion went on to say, "I would, however, caution [those] who may be on top of the roof itself as the metal deck will be the first area to fail and caution should be exercised in that area."
Page said when he went to visit the pool to see the issue for himself, a ceiling tile was removed and approximately one pint of rust dust came down with it. The CCW's concern is how the roof will hold up under heavy New England snows.
Discussion moved from Minnechaug to the Pines School, which hosted the town's Senior Center until it was moved about four years ago to the Scantic Valley YMCA. Despite the fact that the building was empty, the town was still paying on its lease to the Wilbraham Housing Authority. In July 2007, the space's rent was increased to $52,740 a year with an obligation of 11 years left on its contract, resulting in a total expense of $580,140. The CCW approached former town administrator Barry Del Castillo to look into the matter, who discovered that the issue had never been voted on by the public, which was supposed to have happened. The lease agreement was not binding.
Current town administrator Bob Weitz followed up on the issue when he came into the position and the town has officially been released from the obligation.
Page also informed his audience about the 2008 Capital Needs Study of Wilbraham Town Buildings, also known as the Roy Brown Report. Brown is a local architect who annually visits all the town facilities to make assessments of things that need to be repaired or updated and estimates the costs to make those changes. The grand total for his 2008 report is $5,936,850.
The largest issues on the list includes repairs to Memorial School (including $315,000 for asbestos removal included in the FY08 capital planning budget), as well as Soule Road School, Wilbraham Middle School, Mile Tree School and Stony Hill School. The cost to replace windows in the public library ($63,000) was also included in the FY08 capital planning budget.
Other buildings listed as needing repairs in the Brown Report include the fire stations on Boston Road and Woodland Dell, the police station, the town office building, the Department of Public Works garage, the Little Red School House, the Spec Pond buildings and the grange.
Two hundred fifty thousand dollars have been set aside for the remodeling of public buildings in the capital planning budget for FY09. To see these budgets through FY19, visit www.wilbraham-ma.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=docs.download&category_ID=2318&download=792. CCW members can also call or e-mail Page to receive more information on specific buildings.
"We know not everything that needs to be done will be done," Page said. "This just gives us a real, honest to goodness look at the ways to maintain our town buildings."
The next CCW meeting will take place Feb. 21 in the Wilbraham Middle School auditorium beginning at 7 p.m.