Friday, January 29, 2010
School Building Committee weighs Special Town Meeting
At its regularly scheduled meeting on January 21, the School Building Committee (SBC) agreed to delay its decision on whether to recommend a Special Town Meeting and Election to present and vote on the new school building plan.
SBC chair Lee Storrs outlined the two options for presenting the school building project to the town. A Special Town Meeting could be held in late March or early April along with a Special Election. Alternatively, a Warrant Article could be presented during regular Town Meeting, currently scheduled for May 10. Selectman Doug Stevenson stated that a Special Town Meeting and Election would cost approximately $1,000 to $2,000 and asked, “Do we think we can get enough publicity out there in time for an early Town Meeting?”
Storrs explained that the additional cost could likely be recouped by early action which might result in lower construction bids. “The bidding environment is good right now, the quicker we act the better, but we need time to get the public informed.” Storrs had hoped that the SBC would be prepared to make a recommendation at the next Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting on January 26. Member Bill Risso stated, “If we are going to show the big picture, then it makes sense to have it all in one Town Meeting.” Stevenson added, “It would also provide more time to prepare and we wouldn’t be making the same presentation twice,” adding that the updated state aid numbers would be available by May. SBC member Don Rober listed reasons to use the earlier Special Town Meeting date, “The building could be done one month earlier, we could see lower bids in this environment, and it would de-couple this money from the rest of the budget. By de-coupling this, people can focus on this project.”
The committee agreed that an analysis of the planned building schedule would help. For example, would an early Town Meeting and election allow the utilities to be in place before the ground freezes? Would a delay of one month in the removal of the Spalding building delay the entire project until the next year?
Stevenson stated that the Selectmen would like to hear the SBC recommendation by the February 9 BOS meeting. The SBC agreed to delay making their recommendation until then. Storrs stated that by waiting the two extra weeks the SBC would have time to determine if a Political Action Committee (PAC) could be formed, which committee members could start communication work and which committee members would attend meetings. After seeing how much progress is made during the next two weeks, the committee will be more prepared to make their recommendation.
Informing the voters
The committee outlined the methods that it would use to inform the voters. Storrs suggested updating the website, providing interviews on cable TV and creating a new informational brochure. The brochure that was produced last year cost approximately $3,000. When asked if some of the funds remaining in the contingency budget could be used to help inform the public, Stevenson reminded the group that funds could not be used for advocacy. Storrs said that most of the work would be done by committee members. Town Treasurer Larry Barton suggested that it would be helpful to have a PAC noting that a PAC could ask for donations in addition to providing information. ∆
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