NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – A five-year capital projects plan submitted to the School Committee by Building and Grounds Director Paul Halacy on Tuesday lead to a discussion on the need for a new elementary school.
Among the projects proposed for fiscal year 2014 is $693,000 for a new roof at Balmer Elementary School, which houses grades two through four. Also needed at Balmer is an oil tank replacement, at a cost of $177,553, and replacement of asbestos tiles in the cafeteria, with a price tag of $82,000.
The Balmer School is “at or over capacity,’’ said School Committee Chairman Michael McGrath, and the town has been discussing the need for a new elementary school for several years.
As the town considers spending upward of $1 million on improvements at Balmer School, officials should also consider how much longer the school can be used, he said.
Northbridge has been invited to submit a building plan to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Halacy noted, but McGrath said he is unsure on how to proceed. The MSBA pays some percentage of school building projects.
Before taking a Northbridge building proposal seriously, the state would have to see support for the project by other town officials and homeowners, who would be facing higher property taxes, McGrath said.
“We need to start the process, and that is to see if the town will do its piece if the state puts us there,’’ he continued.
School Committee member Tim Doiron, who represents the school board on the town’s Building, Planning and Construction Committee, said any school building project would have to go before that board.
“We need to get it in front of decision makers now. It will be a slow and tedious project,’’ he said.
One of the first steps, Halacy noted, will be a feasibility study, which can be expensive.
The capital projects plan was submitted to Town Manager Theodore Kozak on Friday, Halacy said.
The plan suggests spending $34.7 million in fiscal year 2016 for building and expansion of Balmer School, and $11.7 million in fiscal year 2017 to update 10 classrooms at Northbridge Elementary School, which houses preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
Over five years, the capital projects plan suggests spending $2 million in fiscal year 2014, $1.6 million in fiscal year 2015, $36 million in fiscal year 2016, $12.6 million in fiscal year 2017 and $1.9 million in fiscal year 2018.
Items often remain on the capital projects plan unfilled for many years, among them oil tank replacements at the Balmer and Northbridge Elementary schools.
“They’ve been on the capital plan for as long as I’ve been here,’’ Halacy said.