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says COA

By M.E. Jones

Correspondent

SHIRLEY — The School Committee voted to relinquish the Center School, but now selectmen must decide whether to accept jurisdiction of the building before turning it over to the Council on Aging for a senior center.

That had been the aim for some time, Selectman Leonardo “Chip” Guercio said at the Nov. 17 Board of Selectmen meeting.

But the COA can’t take over the school just yet, said COA treasurer Frank Esielionis. There are details to be worked out first, he said, such as makeover essentials and the costs of heat and utilities.

Currently, the School Department pays for heat and electricity in the unused building, but intends to stop paying those bills by Jan. 1, Guercio said, due to the turnover. Esielionis said that’s too soon.

“There’s no money in our budget” to maintain the building, Esielionis said. He stressed that selectmen would need to weigh in and that, for now at least, the COA is very interested in the old Center School as a senior drop-in center and director’s office. “It’s at the top of our list,” he said, “but we must do our due diligence.”

Town meeting voters appropriated money to maintain the building, Selectman Armand “Andy” Deveau pointed out, and in his opinion that money should transfer when the building does. Deveau said the School Department budgeted $5,500 for oil, $450 for electricity and $267 and $217, respectively, for water and sewer service. “That money was approved and paid for by taxpayers,” he said.

“We assumed heat at 50 degrees, but we don’t know what actual costs are,” Guercio said.

In addition, an architectural study initiated by the school district for an envisioned expansion several years ago showed asbestos that could cost about $68,000 to remove, among other expenses. Although no renovation took place, the selectmen agreed the architectural report should be reviewed to get a sense of how cost estimates might apply to the new use.

Guercio noted $250,000 in MCI funds set aside for a senior center that could be tapped to renovate the building. “Yes, there’s some earmarked money, at least on paper,” he said. But the selectmen should see a list of the COA’s space needs and perhaps get a professional assessment of the building before doling that money out, he said.

Deveau said he met with the COA building committee to generate a list of must-haves versus a wish list and offered to draft space requirements. “We can start to build a price structure from there,” he said.

Town administrator Kyle Keady was asked to review the architectural study with an eye toward determining which items apply and what it might cost to renovate the building.

Chairman Enrico Cappucci suggested tabling the matter pending additional information, to which the board agreed.