Northbridge Committee Discusses Future Of Balmer School

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The Northbridge school board discussed Balmer Elementary School, which is filled to capacity and in need of expansion or replacement. Photo Credit: File

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.

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Comments (9)

stillaranch:

That school needs to be torn down and a new one needs to be built. That building wasn't built very well and having asbestos tiles that are 45 yrs old in the cafeteria where the children eat every day is a disgrace.

The town had an opportunity to apply for to state funds (up to 90%) several years ago and some numbskull missed the deadline. Maybe this time someone will make a note on their calendar and get that eyesore replaced.

stillaranch:

That school needs to be torn down and a new one needs to be built. That building wasn't built very well and having asbestos tiles that are 45 yrs old in the cafeteria where he children eat every day is a disgrace.

The town had an opportunity to apply for state funds (up to 90%) several years ago and some numbskull missed the deadline. Maybe this time someone will make a note on their calendar and get that eyesore replaced.

Jethro:

The Balmer School is only about 45 years old. It surely better last a lot longer!

Taxmanone:

Jethro,

I guess it may be up to our Town Government?

Just my opinion Jethro.

Taxmanone:

Maybe unless the State or Federal Government pays 90% , or if the Shop maybe reopens and pays for it I doubt anything may happen to soon?

Plus a lot of unknowns with the Economy for the average person.

But maybe like all the other Capitol Projects in Town it may be up to our Town Government?

kltracy:

Given that our children are in these schools 6+ hours a day depending on if they are in the after school programs or not, we need to have all schools at a level for optimal learning. A warped gym floor, Asbetos's tiles, a new roof and rooms without air conditioning alone at Balmer.. is unacceptable. Not to mention the upgrades needed at NES for better learning conditions. We have been talking about these changes far too long not to do it, and my children have only been in the school system a few years. The teachers and administration who cultivate our children on a daily basis should be given the tools and environment they deserve to make success happen!

whderv:

So federal politics will dictate our local decision to improve the conditions of the buildings in our town that support the needs of the town?

Sorry, I disagree with the logic.

When you send money to the IRS or to the MA DOR you have little control of where and how it is spent. When you send more money to the town in the form of property tax you know where that money is spent and you can see the results. Thus, regardless of who is office in Boston or Washington, D.C. investing in OUR town is still a wise investment regardless of the what political party is in office outside our town borders.

bruinsfancam8:

Which will happen first.....a new school or a new DPW? My bet is there is no support for a new school building given the instability/lack of leadership at the federal level.

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