Friday, January 18, 2008
MSBA funds limited for Carlisle School wastewater plant Town to seek more aid
The town is applying to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a supplemental reimbursement for the Carlisle School's wastewater treatment plant. Reimbursement for the plant is tied to the replacement septic system that was part of the school's Link expansion project in 1997.
Previously, the former School Building Assistance (SBA) Agency agreed to a 60% reimbursement for a $500,000 septic system replacement project. The school eventually built a wastewater treatment plant at a final cost of $2.4 million, and the facility was completed in 2006. The state's final project audit, completed in late December, did not approve reimbursement for the $1.6 million in wastewater plant costs in excess of the septic system cost originally approved.
Carlisle's project was held up by a lawsuit over the septic field location. Increased enrollments at the time were a factor in the decision to build a wastewater plant rather than a septic system. A lengthy engineering and permitting process followed.
During this time the state reorganized and the SBA was replaced by the MSBA and the school had several different contacts over the years. When the decision to build the plant was made in 2003, the school believed the town would remain eligible for reimbursement for it under the Link project. School records show the school business manager at the time, Steve Moore, contacted the agency by phone about reimbursement and sent follow-up correspondence, however the state gave no guarantee in writing.
According to Town Finance Director Larry Barton, he met with the MSBA on January 4 and has asked them to consider a partial reimbursement for Carlisle for some of the additional cost, based on "fairness" due to the town's need for the plant and the effect on the project of reorganization and changes at the agency.
Carlisle is asking the agency for a hearing about a supplemental grant. Though it is not clear whether a hearing will be granted, he said the town has an obligation to pursue reimbursement and is making every effort to recover costs. With tighter state fiscal oversight under the new MSBA, the town is not expecting the old 60% reimbursement rate, if a grant is even considered.
For the state audit, School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman helped to document the cost of the wastewater system compared with the replacement septic system. School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee said the school appreciates Barton stepping in to assist with the project reimbursement.
Link Building project reimbursement
The town received $137,800 per year for eight years, or $1.1 million in state reimbursement for the Link Building to date. The project added a second floor to the school building, which was later renamed the Grant Building.
Now that the project is complete and audited, payments to the town will increase to $168,800 a year for the next twelve years through 2020, for a total of $3.1 million in reimbursement for the Link project over 20 years.
Reimbursement for the proposed new elementary building project under new MSBA guidelines would be handled quite differently, and would not extend into later years and decades. The state will determine a grant amount for Carlisle based on the reimbursement percentage rate for the project. Larry Barton said the town must then send monthly bills to the agency, with MSBA returning reimbursement checks to the town on an ongoing basis until the grant is exhausted.
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