Up-Island schools take next steps in capital projects

Chilmark and West Tisbury schools are both looking at the next steps for major investment projects that have been in the pipeline for years, including a new HVAC system for Chilmark and a new roof for West Tisbury.

At an Up-Island Regional School District (UIRSD) committee meeting on Monday, officials decided to pursue an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) between the school district and its member towns of Chilmark, Aquinnah and West Tisbury so that Chilmark could serve. as the borrowing entity for the Chilmark School HVAC project.

Taking into account the funds already approved at city rallies on the island for this project last year, the school is looking at a bill of approximately $946,000. In addition to an overhaul of the school’s HVAC system, the project also includes upgrades to the building envelope and insulation.

According to Mark Friedman, chief executive of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, this price tag in its entirety would be far too expensive to put forward as a warrant article, as Chilmark would have to pay 80 percent of the cost, according to the regional cost-sharing formula (West Tisbury and Aquinnah). would split the remaining 20 percent).

The two main options Friedman suggested to committee members both involved borrowing the funds needed for the project.

One option not being pursued by officials was for the school district to borrow the money directly, and while this would be the most direct approach, Friedman said, it could be more expensive in the long run.

According to financial adviser to the school district Lynne Welsh, in this case the district could use permanent government loans, also known as serial loans, to raise the necessary funds. If the district issued the debt itself, the school committee would hold a vote and the member cities would have 60 days to call a special city meeting to approve or deny the debt issuance.

But the option ultimately approved by the committee was to pursue an IMA that would establish the city of Chilmark as the lending entity and the three cities and the UIRSD would enter into an agreement that would fund the bond payments in each member. are included in the school’s operating budget, based on the cost-sharing formula for the term of the bond.

In this scenario, Chilmark will bear all costs of the bond issuance and would be responsible for compiling the project prospectus.

“That’s where this IMA comes into play, as the district would usually borrow the funds first and then assess the member towns,” Welsh said.

Committee member Robert Lionette said he wants to put a firm time limit on the IMA so that if it gets too complicated to get all three cities on board, the district can move forward with the serial loan notes on its own.

Chilmark’s finance committee chairman Robert Hannemann said the jury expressed support for the school project, noting that they were the first to propose the IMA option.

The committee voted unanimously to begin the process of involving member cities in an IMA, with the final plan document and cost projections due back to the UIRSD for final approval.

Rising from the roof

West Tisbury School is in urgent need of a roof replacement, having had to make temporary repairs over the years and install additional roof membrane to repair leaks.

Last spring, towns on the island voted in city assemblies to award about $322,000 for the rooftop project.

Most recently, the school district has gone out to provide and secure the services of Russo Barr Associates, a Woburn-based engineering firm.

The engineers recently evaluated the roof of the school, including taking test samples and performing detailed inspections, and have since produced a preliminary design and cost estimates.

Their estimate is that bids could be in the neighborhood of $495,000.

“So from the start, we have a potential funding gap for this project,” Friedman said. “They had several descriptions of why the cost estimate was so high, including possible building codes.”

Engineers also evaluated the potential to increase the R-value of the building envelope by adding additional insulation, which would make the envelope safer and save energy for the school.

“It turns out that the return on that R-value investment for additional insulation would result in about $300 per year in energy savings, so we recommend not including additional insulation at this time,” Friedman said.

Taking into account a contingency for modest construction inflation, the district is looking at a total estimated cost of about $598,000, according to Friedman. Even with the $322,000 already appropriated, a deficit of about $276,000 remains.

With the added insulation, the deficit would be closer to $321,000.

According to Amanda Sawyer of CHA Consulting, based in Albany, NY, the owner’s project manager for the project, she often sees school districts encountering problems with delayed maintenance. When a district is working on a warranty on something like a roof, Sawyer said, they often use “band-aids” until the warranty expires.

“There is a lot of roof space there and I think the school has done its best to solve some problems. Over the years, repairs have been made and a roof replacement has been done on top of the original roof. When you do that, problems start to crop up,” Sawyer said.

School officials unanimously agreed to send a letter to the member cities informing them of this decision to request a warrant to cover the costs, including the insulation upgrade.

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