Selectman wants assurances on Assabet building repair project

Above: Member towns will be asked to approve a building repair project for Assabet (photo via AVRTHS)

Southborough is no stranger to school renovation projects, and at Town Meeting next week, voters will be asked to allocate funds for yet another one, this time for Assabet. But our history with renovation projects has one selectman urging caution.

At a meeting in February, Assabet officials told selectmen the 40-year-old school building was “in dire need” of repair and that many of the original building systems are at the end of their useful life. The total repair project is estimated to cost $62.4M, with the state chipping in about 54% of that. The remainder would be split by the seven member towns – Marlborough, Hudson, Northborough, Westborough, Berlin, Maynard, and Southborough – based on enrollment.

Southborough would have the smallest share of all the towns at a total of $822K over the life of the bond. Smallest share or not, Selectman John Rooney said last month he wants a written assurance that the enrollment-based formula used to calculate the town’s contribution won’t change down the road.

“I want the Assabet towns to sign an agreement saying they’ll abide by the regional agreement for the duration of the project funding, instead of deciding at some point to change the formula like some other town did,” Rooney said.

He was referring to the Algonquin renovation project and Northborough’s decision to bypass the regional agreement in favor of a state statute that takes into account socio-economic factors in determining each town’s assessment.

That decision has led to a lengthy and costly court battle with Northborough over reimbursement. In a separate warrant article, voters next week will be asked to allocate another $17.5K to the ongoing legal battle.

Rooney said he wants to prevent something similar from happening with the Assabet building repair project.

“It’s a lot of money we’re talking about obligating the town…I want to know that our portion is going to be based on the regional agreement throughout the life of the debt,” he said. “I’m not inclined to advocate my support of this without that condition.”

All seven towns need to approve the borrowing article at their respective town meetings in order for the repair project to move forward.

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Neil Rossen
12 years ago

Good for Mr. Rooney. Assurances should also be sought for the renovation estimate. Public sector projects have a sad history of cost overruns.Perhaps an estimate of the maximum cost overrun would be in order.

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