Little School, Weston office to work on joint backup generator

New Little School Executive Director Cathy Siggins listens to the Weston Select Board discuss backup power for her school and the Town Office. Photos by Bruce Frauman

By Bruce Frauman
©2019 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The Little School and the Town of Weston are hoping to work together to purchase and install a power backup system that will keep both the school and the Town Office running during outages.

The new director of the Little School came to the Weston Select Board on Tuesday, Nov. 26 seeking help to install a generator as soon as possible. The town owns the building that houses the Little School, next door to the Town Office Building.

Cathy Siggins spoke to the board about the best location for a generator that is less visible to the public, will not be buried under snow falling from the roof and is legal in terms of setbacks.

Board member Jim Linville said he would like the town to buy a large enough generator that would also power the Town Office Building, adding that power outages are coming “fast and furious now.” Siggins said the primary purpose of a generator would be for heat, the ability to flush toilets, for lights and to power the refrigerators and the computers. She said if the power is out more than two hours, they must close the school.

Select Board administrator Cheryl Barker said she had recently attended a class put on by Green Mountain Power in which GMP was proposing Tesla Powerwall batteries that could function for two days at a cost of $30 per month above the power bill. Powerwalls are charged either by solar energy or on the power grid.

Town Treasurer and Clerk Kim Seymour addresses the need for new computers to upgrade to Windows 10 among tech support purchases.

Siggins suggested that solar power and Powerwalls are long-term solutions to an immediate problem.

Board member Bruce Downer said making a decision now, without certain numbers, such as the cost of the proposed generator and installation, would be irresponsible.  The board passed Downer’s motion to support a joint venture that would power both buildings for at least a week. Siggins told the board she would return with all the necessary information to make a decision at the Jan. 14 meeting.

The Select Board also approved replacing five older computers with units that can be upgraded to Windows 10. One computer has already been upgraded, said Town Treasurer and Clerk Kim Seymour.  Seymour said there is $7,000 of $9,000 budgeted for computer upgrades and includes hardware, software and labor.

The board voted to continue to partner with New England Municipal Resource Center despite an annual fee increase from $1,500 to $5,000. NEMRCC provides governments with municipal software and technological and management support and has instituted the hike to hire additional cyber security staff and conduct annual cybersecurity audits among other measures.

Seymour said NEMRC has been “fairly cheap for a very long time,” and provides excellent support no matter how many times she calls.

Taconic and Green Regional School District board member Debra Lyneis came before the board seeking input on what board members and others in attendance want from the schools and for children in the schools.

Taconic and Green School Board member Debra Lyneis, standing, seeks input for school goals from the Weston Select Board, with board members Annie Fuji’i, seated left, and Jim Linville, right.

Ideas included community involvement, social skills, home economics, life skills of respect and courtesy, math, reading, writing, vocabulary, learning to be independent thinkers, language, music, problem solving skills, good track for vocational aspirations, knowledge of how government works and more.

Lyneis said the school board passed a policy that asks administrations to find ways to do without positions that have been vacated by moving students or teachers. She said this has eliminated a few positions. Lyneis added that the district has about 1,700 students, which is 23 less than last year. She said that buildings and grounds and food services have been consolidated, saving some money.

Seymour shared a letter from the state Division of Property Value and Review that said that the fiscal year 2020 hold harmless estimate is $84,161, up from $81,877 last year. Seymour said this is the state reimbursement for land under current use, under which owners pay less in taxes than they otherwise would. Board Chair Denis Benson said the estimate is about 1/4 of what the town loses in taxes annually.

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