Dear Board of Selectmen members:
I am writing to express my concern with the actions of the Board of Selectmen with regard to the recent vote for the feasibility study. While I realize that the board did not take an official vote on their position, one member of the board made his opinions known to several local papers. In his letters to the Fitchburg Sentinel, Lowell Sun, and Ayer Public Spirit, Mr. Maxant expressed his view of the “facts” and signed as “Frank Maxant, Selectman, Ayer.” This may be acceptable if Maxant is speaking for his board, but this was not the case. His use of his position was misleading and, in my view, an abuse of his role as an elected official. Maxant is certainly entitled to express his opinions, but unless authorized by the board, he must state in his letter that he is expressing his own opinion and not the opinion of the board.
Mr. Maxant, we all realize that you were not in favor of regionalization or the feasibility study. Please note that your town voted in favor of this study, as did our town’s Finance Committee and the Finance Committee for the town of Shirley. In order to receive the very favorable reimbursement rates that MSBA is prepared to give us, we must follow the steps that they require, whether we agree or not. The Regional School Committee does not make up the rules, so publicly calling them “snake-oil salesmen” and “spin doctors” is not only unprofessional, it is not productive. Instead of criticizing our incredibly hard working volunteers on the RSC, perhaps you could find a way to work with them to get your questions answered. I’m sure if you opened your mind and gave them a chance, you would see just how reasonable and cost effective working with MSBA really is.
Mr. Luca, I understand that you were concerned about the $750,000 figure. Please remember that the RSC wanted to ask the voters one time for money so made sure to request a conservative dollar amount in case of unexpected issues that might come up during the study. What may not have been emphasized enough is that this loan would act almost like a line of credit that many of us have on our homes. The total line would be for $750,000, but the RSC would only borrow the amount necessary to complete the project. Also, payments would be made as the study progressed, with each payment being reimbursed by MSBA at a rate of approximately 55 percent. At no point would the total loan amount reach $750,000, since reimbursements would be made by MSBA throughout. Even in the event the total $750,000 was borrowed, if the project was approved by the voters for construction, MSBA would pay approximately 66.7 percent ($500,250) of the study, the Town of Shirley would pay 15 percent ($112,387) and the Town of Ayer would pay 18.3 percent ($137,363).
It may also be helpful for voters to know that the town of Norton is in the process of doing a similar project as ours. They recently approved a feasibility study in the amount of $600,000 to explore the renovation and possible addition to their 40-year-old high school. Their high school will house a projected 700 students, compared to 836 for our middle high school as determined by MSBA’s student enrollment study. Since their project is smaller than ours, and given the RSC’s desire to be conservative in their estimates, I think the amount projected for our study is quite reasonable.
Mr. Fay and Ms. McCreary, thank you for your support of our new regional school district. When we support the schools, our entire town benefits. I hope we can count on the support of the entire Board of Selectmen if the Regional School Committee decides on Feb. 16 to move ahead with another vote.