By Anne O’Connor
Building repairs and approval for an artificial turf field will be on the warrant for Town Meetings in Townsend, Pepperell and Ashby.
The North Middlesex Regional School District is asking to borrow money for repairs to three buildings. The district is also looking for the OK to use savings from the high school building project to install an artificial turf field and to repair a maintenance garage.
The repair projects, if approved by all three member towns of Ashby, Townsend and Pepperell, will be partially reimbursed at 57.11 percent by the Massachusetts School Building Authority under its accelerated repair program, said Pepperell Town Manager Mark Andrews.
Towns are not required to put the articles to approve debt service on their Town Meeting warrants, wrote Nancy Haines, manager of financial operations at North Middlesex, in an email. If the article is not on the warrant, the debt is considered to be approved 60 days after the school committee approved the debt. That vote was taken on April 3.
If Town Meeting approval is contingent on a debt exclusion, the article needs to pass at both Town Meeting and a ballot election, she wrote. All three towns must approve the debt before the district can borrow.
Each town’s financial responsibility for the expenses is based on the number of students in each building, Andrews said. Special elections could be called during the summer to approve any debt exclusions passed at Town Meeting.
Varnum Brook Elementary School in Pepperell needs a new roof, window replacement and climate control replacement. The expected cost is $8,977,987.
In Townsend roofing, siding, interior repairs and climate control for Squannacook Early Childhood Center comes in at $4,570,277.
Windows, doors, leak repairs and climate control at Hawthorne Brook Middle School, also in Townsend has a price tag of $4,109,125.
Pepperell and Ashby have all three articles on their Town Meeting warrants. Townsend has not finalized the warrant.
The other two school financial articles would use funds that have already been appropriated but were not used for the high school building project.
The projects need approval from all three towns, Haines wrote
The district asked for $210,000 to be repurposed to renovate an existing maintenance garage at the high school.
The other article asks for $1.8 million to build an artificial turf field.
Not approving the expenditures will mean a lower borrowing for the project. According to a presentation given at a North Middlesex Regional School District Building Committee meeting, the School Committee voted to request reallocation of the funds.
The yearly tax impact per $100,000 of house value is estimated at $104 with the turf field and $99 without the field in Pepperell, $121 and $115 in Townsend, and $114 and $113 in Ashby.
Repairing the building makes sense under the original scope of the plan, said former Pepperell Selectman Stephen Themelis who is a member of the School Building Committee.
Themelis did not support using taxpayer funds to install artificial turf in the stadium. The fields will have new drainage and be ready for either sod or artificial turf when the project is done, he said. Further expenses should be the responsibility of organizations such as a booster club.
A turf field will benefit the entire community and be more cost-efficient per use than a sod field, said Bob Mitchell. The multi-sport coach and president of North Middlesex Pep Warner prepared a presentation for the School Building Committee.
Turf can be used continuously without resting. That means that other high school and community groups can use the stadium, he said. A sod field has to rest periodically so the plants will survive. Unlike a natural-surface field, turf can be used when the weather is wet and can even be plowed.
The school is looking for the most environmentally-friendly and cost-efficient material available, he said.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.