School Committee approves fund transfers for building projects

By Chris Maza
Longmeadow News

LONGMEADOW – The School Committee voted to approve two end-of-year budget transfer requests totaling $98,000 for school building maintenance at its June 25 meeting.

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Thomas Mazza (Screen capture from LCTV)

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Thomas Mazza told the School Committee there were two separate requests made when the town approached the school department about bridging funding gaps in the projects. The first appropriation was in the amount of $50,000 for the fire alarm system at Center School and the second was for $48,000 to replace electrical switchgear for at Glenbrook Middle School.

The project at Glenbrook is related to the power outage that affected the building earlier in the school year on March 11.

“When we actually flipped the switch to turn the power off for the entire building, the building still remained live and we had to go to the subpanel to shut everything down,” Nick Georgantas, the facilities director for the Department of Public Works, explained. “It is a safety concern because it is a last resort to cut off the power to the building. Say if something was burning, on fire electrically, we would then go to that switchgear to isolate the building, so we definitely suggest replacing [it].”

The request for Center School was made to support the design phase of that project, which was more expensive than initially estimated.

“They estimated when we had a study done of the fire system $215,000 to $295,000. What was put up at capital was $225,000,” Georgantas said. “We’re asking for the $50,000 to get us through design. Design fees were a little bit more than was anticipated and with the tight timeframe to get this done this summer, we could use some padding for the numbers to make it more palatable for companies that would bid on the project.”

Mazza said the funding would be utilized from an end of year balance of over $100,000 in the district’s general fund. He went on to say that any monies not utilized in the fiscal year would roll back to the town.

“Either way, if we don’t use the money as requested by the town, the money will get turned back to the town, which, depending on how much they have, could end up in operational stabilization or in free cash, which would be addressed at the fall Town Meeting,” he said.

Committee Chair Wray opined that the fire alarm project was much needed, drawing from personal experience as a neighbor of Center School.

“We would see [the Fire Department] there every week to shut off a faulty alarm,” he said.

Vice Chair Bronwyn Monahan also stressed the project was a priority.

Georgantas also addressed damage to some of the high school’s labs due to flooding. He said the challenge was finding matching cabinetry due to the fact that the original vendor that sold the fixtures to the district is no longer in business.

Mazza pointed out that the cabinets were made to order specifically for the high school building and replacements would have to be made to specifications, which could take longer.

“We are concerned that room 106, downstairs that received the most damage, may not be done in time for the opening of school,” he said.

Georgantas said the other three rooms that were affected would be operational.