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Schools’ budget in, McDermott says facilities study is incomplete


AYER — A comprehensive facilities study that administrators had hoped to include with the capital budget request submitted last week was not, in fact, complete in time for the deadline date, so the request form went in without it. Also, without more than a bare bones outline of the money the district needs for each item on the list, spread over a six-year time frame.

According to Assistant Superintendent Brian McDermott, who presented the big picture to the School Committee at its December meeting, the contractor the district hired to do the facilities study turned in a report that did not include detailed data he had anticipated, despite a job description that he said was made clear at the outset in more ways than one.

The discrepancy between what the district wanted and what the contractor reportedly delivered is in the details. The facilities study provided an overview rather than the desired chapter and verse walk-through of school facilities McDermott expected with trouble spots and needed upgrades identified. Also, recommended fixes should have been described in more detail and assigned estimated price tags, he said.

The facilities study was on the agenda at an interim board meeting in November, but the presentation was postponed at that time. Nor was the appropriate report presented at the December meeting.

Capital Improvement Plan

With one exception, the only items accompanied by dollar amounts on the capital budget request form were listed under the FY06 column and have already been approved by town meeting voters. They are $25,000 for the facilities study, $35,000 to replace exterior doors at the middle/high school, $100,000 for technology upgrades that translated to 100 new computers for classroom and computer lab use, and $25,000 to replace the partition in the Middle/High School gym.

Other items with dollar amounts attached included $300,000 for FY07 to replace the Hilltop School roof, $50,000 to update the high school auditorium light and sound system for FY08, $250,000 to replace the boiler at Page Hilltop for FY09, and $100,000 to implement phase II of the technology plan.

Other items included on the capital budget request form, which is divided into columns from FY06 to FY11, constitute a district-wide wish list that board members agreed to prioritize for practical purposes and apportion by year accordingly.

Top priorities on the list include a video buzzer system to secure school entryways and facilitate quick lockdowns if necessary. As Superintendent Lore Nielsen and board member Jackie Butler pointed out, this is a key component of a complete security system, especially at the high school, where the configuration of the main entrance makes it impossible for people in the office to see people entering the building.

Other items, some of which may be purchased and installed over time, include window upgrades; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) work; and upgrades and re-grades on the school athletic fields. Some windows need replacement, new caulking to increase energy efficiency, and new window blinds and shades for security and to improve temperature control.

With the request form due to be turned in to the interim town administrator last Friday, the bottom line still had gaps that McDermott said will be filled in as more information becomes available.

To date, the total for FY06 is $185,000, including items already approved. Totals are blank and still to be determined for the years that follow. Regarding the missing figures, the Superintendent’s secretary, Laura Jordan-Callahan, said no changes had been made by Monday morning.