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North Reading At a Crossroads

The upcoming school project vote is a major crossroads for North Reading. Be a part of determining the town's path by educating yourself on the issues and voting in March.

In the 1950s and 1960s, North Reading faced a crossroads. Babies boomed in this small rural town, and residents met the challenge by building three elementary schools, a , and, soon after, a . The townspeople believed in education and put the bricks and mortar — and funding — together to support that tenet.

Now, it is a new century and North Reading faces a crossroads again. Our town has the opportunity to build a middle school and a high school to replace our antiquated buildings. But it’s not just any opportunity; it’s a one-time opportunity. The state agency charged with funding school construction in Massachusetts, the MSBA, has approved $47 million of state funding to match our own $60 million. With this funding, we can bring our schools into the 21st century, allowing our students and teachers full access to the technology, space, and environment that best supports learning.

This blog will allow Invest in North Reading and North Reading citizens a forum to address questions, engage in productive, informative discussion, and, we hope, bring all voters a full understanding of the choice they face at Town Meeting on March 19 and the ballot on March 24.

Please check back regularly for news and updates. We would like to hear your questions; we pledge to keep our input respectful and informative about the project. For more information, please visit our Web site or the Secondary Schools Building Committee’s Web site.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Joella Wieselquist February 26, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Going to the Town Meeting on March 19 will answer questions you may have. There have been plenty of web sites posted in various places to visit to get all of the information you need. Take a few minutes out of your day and take a look.
Ed Canney February 26, 2012 at 05:04 PM
A recent vote by the Selectman, endorsed the project 5-0. The board states there will be funding by the State of $47 million to $49 million. The SSBC says the State share will be 51.49% or $56 million for a $108 million project.(Ms. Rinaldi letter to the Transcript 2/23) Am I seeing a $9 to $11 million discrepancy in State reimbersement? It is the Selectman's resposibility to accurately inform the citizens the actual monies to be bonded. Are we even sure as to the total cost. Is it $107, $108 or $110 million? I've seen all three figures used. I'm amazed the Selectman endorsed a bonded project, but don't know the actual cost. And the Selectman Chairman was once the chairman of the Finance Committee!! Really!!
Invest in North Reading February 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM
The final total project cost is $107 million. The state has agreed to fund 51.49% of eligible costs, which totals $47 million. Some costs, such as the treatment plant, are ineligible for MSBA funding, which is why reimbursement is not 51.49% of $107 million. The town's share is $60 million, which will be bonded under a level 25-year term. This $60 million is what North Reading residents fund through the debt exclusion. If you have further questions, we can provide more details or ask one of the Selectmen to respond.
Ed Canney February 26, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Thanks for your quick response. You can see how Ms. Rinaldi's letter may have been confusing on this issue, saying there would be 51.49% reimbursement, no mention of costs that are not eligible. My suggestion, as a former member of the Board of Selectman, would be to have one voice publically define the costs and details. Having individual members of committees expound on such issues only serve to confuse, and cause doubt. For instance, the High School was substantially renovated in the early '90s by debt exclusion, so to cast that it is a 50 year old building is not accurate. Also the statements that there are "many code" violations is suspect. My letter to the Transcript and the Patch blog questioning such serious accusations and their consequences was detailed. Hopefully this project's sponsors will refrain from such insincerity, and just give us that factual details. Then and only then can we decide this issue based on relavancy.
Invest in North Reading February 26, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Glad to be of help, Ed. We always strive to be accurate. Sometimes, in condensing information, nuance can be lost. It is never our intention to mislead, and it is great to have a forum like this where we can clarify specifics and have discussions. The high school was renovated in 1989. However, during that renovation several classrooms were cut in half to create more classrooms. As for code issues, once a certain level of renovation is undertaken, there are triggers that will require items not in line with current code to be addressed.
Ed Canney February 27, 2012 at 12:38 AM
Incorrect on the "code issues". Under what Code do items not "line up"? Is it the Building Code, the Health Code, EPA Code, NFPA Code? The Codes I have referred to above, must be up to current compliance for any and all buildings under Massachusetts statute, I assure you. The SSBC has stated the middle & high schools have many "code violations". What codes? When you say "code violations" in generic, in a public forum, you are referring to safety codes. Building, Health, Fire Codes, i.e. Safety Codes. That is the assumption of any reader when he or she reads "code violations". The Building, Health and Fire Deparments inspect the schools at least once annually, as required by law. Any code violations that are found must be mitigated.No exceptions! So I find it hard to believe there are "many code" violations that are un-mitigated currently in the middle and high schools.
Sue S February 27, 2012 at 01:55 AM
keep in mind that the renovations in '89 was to repair problems such as a leaky roof and insufficient classrooms.....they fixed the roof but not the reason the roof leaked so after 20+ years those rennovations are probalby in need of repair again as well as out of date....you can keep putting band aids on the leaking dyke or you can actually fixed the probably....either way it is only going to slightly more money to build 2 new school rather than patch up 2 out of date run down school
Ed Canney February 27, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Sue, I was the Selectman's liaison to the SBC at the time. I wasn't eleted until 1990, so I question the 1989 date for renovation. The $6.9 million that was approved for the High School renovation, did in fact include a new roof. We obviously were assured the roof repair would be complete, not simply covered. There was a great deal of public discussion specifically regarding that very issue. New school or renovated, roofs unfortunately have finite warrantees, usually ranging from 20 to 30 years.
Jerrilyn February 29, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Hi Ed, I'm glad that you are looking for the facts. It is great to know people are finding out facts prior to the Special Town Meeting and Vote. I did mention in my last sentence of my letter that it was 51.49% state reimbursement of the eligible costs of the project. Getting a letter down to 500 words is difficult. I narrowed it down from over 1,000 words at the beginning! Jerrilyn Rinaldi
Ed Canney March 01, 2012 at 05:06 AM
Hello, Jerrilyn. I fully understand that the numbers can be confusing, and may change even further when the project goes out to bid. My suggestion is to have one voice, (preferably the Selectman) speak to the scope of this project, since it will be a 25 year bond. Having various voices w/different numbers only serves to cause confusion. Since it will be the Selectman that will formally bond this project, they must inform the public what amount will be bonded and at what interest rate. At their meeting last week they stated $108,000,000 w/between $47,000,000 & $49,000,000 reimbursement from the state. Those numbers have to be a lot firmer for bonding, I would think. Will the bond be $59,000,000 or $61,000,000? A $2,000,000 difference is quite a lot of money, and then there’s the interest. They obviously can't go into the bond market and say we need "about $60,000,000".
Joella Wieselquist March 01, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Go to the town meeting on the 19th and base your decision on what you learn from the meeting.
Ed Canney March 01, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Again in this week's Transcript, there are different numbers, a $700 increase per year for the average house and/or $750 per year for the same home. Project costs of between $107,000,000 or $108,000,000! The "code violations" issue was addressed by the School Committee. But they use a "shoot the messenger" philosophy. I didn't say there were code violations in the schools, members of the SSBC did! I'm curious as to how the School Committee allowed these public "code violations" statements to stand for two weeks, only answering them when it was questioned by me. I hope the readers of this blog do not feel I am part of any movement to derail this project.I served along with Steve O'Leary & Jerry Venezia, and hold both in high regard for their service to the community. My comments have been accurate in publically presented numbers and supposed code violations. I think I have been fair in my interpitation as to the assessment of the varying numbers & their impact on the proposed tax increase. All the numbers have come from public statements. The reaction by elected officials to my comments are quite surprising! Rather than say"Mr. Canney was correct to cite there are no current code violations in the schools", they allude that I should have made my objections to them & not respond to public comments on such a serious issue in a public forum. Steve O’Leary’s comments are not a week old…yet his “tone it down” suggestion is unheeded.

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