GM board votes to put $20 million renovation bond before district voters

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On Aug. 25, the board of the Green Mountain Unified School District decided to move forward with a multi-year, $20.5 million project to renovate its three school buildings. The vote was 6-1 — with three members absent — to put a 20 year bond before the voters of Andover, Baltimore, Cavendish and Chester at the general election on Nov. 8.

Mike Davey of EEI presents the project numbers for the board's approval <small>Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV</small>

Mike Davey of EEI presents the project numbers for the board’s approval Images courtesy of Okemo Valley TV

The project began in July of 2019 as a “free energy audit” conducted by Energy Efficient Investments of Merrimack, New Hampshire. The company proposed the audit to the GM Facilities Committee, which brought it to the board for approval. With that done, EEI inspected each of the district’s schools  — Green Mountain High and Cavendish Town and Chester-Andover elementaries — and spoke with administrators and physical plant supervisors about problems as well as wishes.

The first iteration of the project, revealed on Sept. 16, 2021, weighed in at more than $29 million and with “wishes” that included a $4.5 million addition of classrooms and $1.75 million new gym for Chester-Andover and, at GM, a $440,000 renovation to turn an old locker room into new offices for the school nurse and guidance counselors and a $150,000 outdoor classroom pavilion. Unlike the other schools, Cavendish Elementary saw an increase in the money put into upgrading its playground from an original $40,000 to $85,000. While members have made comparisons to the larger amount that went into the CAES upgrade, that project was financed with fundraising and grants.

While a number of items were eliminated as the board discussed the tab over several meetings, the board was convinced that much of the schools’ infrastructure was reaching the end of its useful life and needed to be replaced or upgraded.

An Agency of Education list of districts with the most depleted infrastructure

An Agency of Education list of districts with the most depleted infrastructure

Referring to a self-reported assessment of school facilities compiled by the Agency of Education that ranked most depleted infrastructure as “the top 10 worst offenders,” EEI’s Mike Davey pointed to GM’s No. 7 position on the list.

There was ongoing discussion of replacing windows throughout the CAES building, with board chair Joe Fromberger of Andover asking how the $1.1 million item, which had been removed from the project budget, had returned.

“How did that get back in there?” asked Fromberger, who has repeatedly argued that the window replacements will never pay for themselves. Davey pointed to the lack of classroom exits in the original building, which is oriented north to south.

CAES Principal Katherine Fogg said that in addition to the egress issue the current windows make the classrooms cold in the winter and hot in the spring and fall. She also said the school should have tinted windows for safety, noting that the large windows make people feel vulnerable.

Board member Rick Alexander of Chester was part of the facilities committee that recommended EEI and Davey, but said he voted against the package because he believes it is too much money. Alexander said he appreciated the work Davey had done, but felt the total was $3 million to $5 million too high. Davey’s firm makes its income from such projects and the larger the project, the larger its income.

Board member Josh Schroeder asked what the impact on taxpayers would be. Two Rivers Supervisory Union Business Manager Cheryl Hammond said that for a home assessed at $250,000 taxes would increase by a little less than $300 per year. Fromberger asked how many homes worth $250,000 were left in the area and then asked about an average home assessed at $350,000. Hammond said the tax would increase by a little less than $400 per year. She also confirmed that adding $1 million per year for a bond issue would not trigger the penalty tax for exceeding the state’s education spending threshold.

Board members as ‘salespeople’

Board member Adrienne Williams asks what is the process if the bond vote fails

Board member Adrienne Williams asks what is the process if the bond vote fails

While board member Adrienne Williams of Baltimore voted in favor of the package, she said that she doubted that the voters would approve it in the current environment and asked what the process would be in such a case.

TRSU Superintendent Lauren Fierman said that the board could come back and decide how to reduce it or put it forward again with greater outreach efforts.

Fierman said that the key to passing the bond is for the board members to be strong and vocal in favor while reminding people that they can pay for this now or do it on an emergency basis with deficit spending as infrastructure fails.

“Board members will have to be salespeople to get to the people who are going to vote on this thing,” said Fromberger.

Board chair Joe Fromberger saying that members will have to be salespeople to get the bond approved

Board chair Joe Fromberger saying that members will have to be salespeople to get the bond approved

Board members Deb Brown and Lois Perlah said that tours of the schools had convinced them of the need and perhaps tours could be arranged for the voting public.

Davey said that in other school systems an outreach committee was formed to get the word out, with board members making presentations to local select boards, created videos for posting on the school’s website and sending postcards to voters.

Davey suggested that he and another EEI employee be members of the committee along with the board members who volunteered. Those included Fromberger of Andover, Josh Schroeder of Chester and Steve Perani if Cavendish. Former board member Wayne Wheelock of Baltimore also volunteered.

The Outreach Committee will hold its first meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 31 at Green Mountain High and via Zoom by clicking here.

The Telegraph will publish details of the proposed renovations in the coming weeks.


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  1. Doug McBride says:

    I struggle to understand how this $20,000,000 will improve the quality of our children’s education. The same education in a building with new windows and a fancy heating system has little value. I hope the School Directors will focus on improving the quality of education and not on buildings and parking lots.

  2. F and C Esposito says:

    Really?20 million? And aren’t we still paying for the new Police and Fire Dept. building?
    We agree with Thomas. Maybe other options should be considered first. Why are taxpayers always expected to come up with extra money that we really don’t have?

  3. Jennifer Leak says:

    Given that the Secretary of State will begin mailing general election ballots at the end of September, the Board will need to be very clear on how voters can get a ballot for this bond vote in each of the participating towns. And it will be equally important for everyone who has an opinion on this issue to become informed and VOTE!

  4. Cynthia Prairie says:

    A story we did about school reopening lists these numbers: Cavendish Town Elementary has 75 students; Chester-Andover Elementary has 236 students; Green Mountain Middle/High has 350.

  5. Kathy Vize says:

    How many students does GM serve?
    How can one learn what the historic student enrollment has been?
    What is the projected future enrollment?

    While GM has suffered and paid due to deferred maintenance, what items included in the proposed bond are not necessary to facilitate a safe, environmentally-friendly schools?

  6. I think it may be time to CLOSE the highschool and everyone goes where they want. 20Million dollars is un affordable.
    If this school is that bad it needs to be torn down and build another one, only a few hundred kids go there and 3/4 hate the school and how it run.
    What would additional cost be per home owner, and this would be on top of the town tax, school tax, then this new 20million school bond.
    With recession here already, housing costs will be doubled. Oil/Propane prices are thru the roof.