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Burlington Town Meeting approves Marshall Simonds Renovation

Posted by Sara Brown  May 13, 2010 11:18 AM

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Burlington Town Meeting Wednesday gave the go-ahead to a $32.825 million renovation of Marshall Simonds Middle School, with the expectation that the Massachusetts School Building Authority will reimburse the town for at least 52 percent of the cost.

“This is one of the best bargains Burlington has seen in many a year,” said Mildred Nash, town meeting member representing Precinct 3. 

 In a roll call vote of 72-5 with eight abstentions, the meeting approved the project, which is expected to cost the town about $10 million.  The town will be reimbursed for money already spent on design plans and replacing the school’s HVAC system. 

 To work the project into the town’s debt schedule, some other projects will be reconfigured.  A $7 million plan to renovate the fire department’s Terrace Hall substation will be reduced to $4 million, said Town Administrator Robert Mercier, and a $3 million in improvements to the Varsity Field will be reduced to $2 million. 

 The town will also put revenue from a recent meals tax increase into the project, Mercier said.  Conservative estimates put that revenue at $650,000, he said.

 The renovation, expected to be complete by fall 2012, will add 3,400 square feet to the school, including a new library, media center and office facilities, and a new entrance to the school on Winn Street, according to plans for the project. A hallway would be built to join the existing space to the new addition, and the cafeteria will be updated to make the space more functional. 

 Representatives from town committees pointed out that the town would likely spend a similar amount or more on maintaining the middle school, over the next 10 years. 

 Town Meeting also approved several other items, including $100,000 in repairs to the Human Services building, $2,500 for the Drug and Alcohol Task Force, $15,000 for an energy efficiency program at the public library, $50,000 for police department building repairs, $20,000 for an analysis of the town’s future health care costs, $114,000 for installing an upgraded program at the Vine Book Water Treatment plant, $200,000 to install 14 permanent meters that will determine sources of inflow and infiltration to the town’s sewer system, and $150,000 for stream cleaning. 

 A $3.7 million bond authorization for water main upgrades, water storage tank repair and painting, and construction and repaving for roadways was also approved.  

 The meeting opened with an hour-long discussion of the school department’s budget, with the School Committee and superintendent fielding questions ranging from how the department funded cutting down 60 trees near the high school to why information about the school budget, including the superintendent’s salary, wasn’t more publicly available.

 After several questions about where to find the superintendent’s salary, which is public information, Joanne Roy, from precinct 5, got straight to the point and asked Conti how much he made: he answered $162,000, plus incentives based on his evaluation.

 Town Meeting approved the schools’ budget of just over $44 million and then approved the final town budget for fiscal 2011 at $98,202,160.

 The third session of the annual Town Meeting will convene Monday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Burlington High School’s Fogelberg Auditorium.  

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