To the Editor:
Our children deserve better, and quite frankly, so do we. The Region 18 Board of Education (BOE) has voted to put forth a $57.55 million referendum, of which over $52 million will be used to address heating and cooling issues in four schools. The BOE “information” mailer neglected to mention the price tag and misleads residents into thinking most of the money is going for renovations; whereas less than 10% is being dedicated to remodeling. Our children deserve better than to live through a three-year disruption due to Covid-19 and another major disruption caused by construction activities that has an estimated completion date in December of 2025 – especially when other solutions could be employed. Taxpayers deserve better because the proposed solution is the most expensive method to address the needs of our children.
Setting aside that the $57.55 million proposal does nothing to enhance learning and is the most expensive project ever proposed for either Town, the needless disruption that will be prevalent throughout the schools could be avoided if other, more appropriate methods were employed. Specifically, split unit air conditioners, which are designed to be installed in buildings with no existing HVAC systems (like our schools), require just two holes in a wall for each room. Since the condenser is outside, no noise is created by the system inside. In addition, HEPA filters can be incorporated, thereby ensuring quality air in the classrooms.
The BOE was never presented with different options. Instead, the engineering firm, which has a vested interest in managing the project as a percentage of the total cost, provided different estimates that varied by several million dollars of the same option. When residents started questioning the cost, the administration sought verification for costs from yet another firm, but never requested different options that could be less disruptive and less costly. Oddly, even the engineer’s reports never envisioned adding HVAC as a separate project but stated that the BOE should consider upgrading to an HVAC system during the next major renovation.
We’ve been down this road before concerning the high school renovation. The BOE insisted that the proposed demolition and rebuilding of the high school was the best and most cost-effective option. When defeated at referendum, the BOE sought citizen input and ended up not demolishing the high school and saving over $13 million. As taxpayers, we should insist on the same process to ensure our tax dollars are not being wasted by an over-zealous administration. I urge you to vote No for the BOE referendum on November 8 and save our children the disruption this massive construction project would entail while holding the BOE fiscally responsible for our tax dollars.