Friday, September 17, 2004
Possible hitch in school wastewater plant reimbursement
At the Carlisle School Committee meeting on September 8, Carlisle School Business Manager Steve Moore expressed concern about the reimbursement process for the school Wastewater Treatment Facility building project.
The school and town has been expecting a 60% reimbursement from the state of Massachusetts, based on an understanding with the SBA (School Building Assistance Department), a wing of the Massachusetts Department of Education. The school is currently receiving payments from the SBA for the 1996 Grant Building expansion project, which includes the wastewater plant. However, on July 26, Governor Mitt Romney signed into law Chapter 208 of the Acts of 2004, establishing a new Massachusetts School Building Authority. The new authority, which will be chaired by the state treasurer and have seven members on the board, will assume responsibility for the SBA program. The legislation also created a new financing structure for the program and instituted other reforms.
Carlisle School had previously received a promise from the SBA for the reimbursement for the project, provided the work start by the summer of 2004. With delays in permits, Moore was expecting to receive permission to begin the project in the fall of 2004. He learned of the new building authority this summer, he said, when he accessed the DOE's (Department of Education) website.
"We are putting the bid for construction out on October 1," he told the school committee, "and we hope to award the bid by November 1." The current school septic system under Spalding Field is in technical failure and must be replaced. Because of increased enrollment, the state requires the school to put in a wastewater treatment plant (the school currently pumps the septic system monthly).
Carlisle voters approved $1,278,918 for the treatment facility at a Special Town Meeting on November 10, 2003, which covers the construction of a wastewater treatment facility and a septic field. Of further concern, according to Moore, are the additional funds that need to be requested from the town this fall. "The recent cost estimate is a $136,000 increase and it is still going up," explained Moore. With delays in permits, the construction will now be over the winter, which adds two to three more weeks at least to the schedule, and additional cost, including police details.
Possible benefit to town
The new Act contains separate provisions relating to "grandfathered" projects, which include projects previously approved for grants and projects on the Department's priority waiting list. The Authority is required to pay grants for those projects granted prior to the Act. The wastewater treatment facility may fall under the "grandfathered" projects. If the reimbursement is still approved, Carlisle stands to benefit from the new Act. A new provision in the Act authorizes the Authority to disburse funds as project costs are incurred and/or upon completion of the project. Previous expenses were distributed after the project was completed.
Moore said he is compiling all necessary documents for a meeting with the new Authority. He said former Carlisle School Superintendent Davida Fox-Melanson has offered to write a report detailing the history of the wastewater treatment facility project, which is required by the SBA. Committee Chair Nicole Burkel suggested Moore attend the meeting, expecting agreement, but said she hoped eventually the new Authority would provide a written agreement of reimbursement.
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