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Andover School District approves study of school building needs

  • Toby Locke asks questions about Article 4 during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Toby Locke asks questions about Article 4 during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Moderator Betsy Paine pauses to listen for a motion to be seconded during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Moderator Betsy Paine pauses to listen for a motion to be seconded during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Irene Jewett, left, and Betsy McDonald listen to audience questions during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

    Irene Jewett, left, and Betsy McDonald listen to audience questions during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.

    (ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

  • Toby Locke asks questions about Article 4 during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Moderator Betsy Paine pauses to listen for a motion to be seconded during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)
  • Irene Jewett, left, and Betsy McDonald listen to audience questions during the Andover School District meeting at Andover Elementary/Middle School on Monday, March 3, 2014.<br/><br/>(ARIANA van den AKKER / Monitor staff)

Voters at the Andover School District meeting last night dispatched with plans for next year within minutes of opening the meeting, spending the balance of their time looking at needs farther down the road.

They ultimately approved a school board plan to hire an architectural engineer to evaluate the Andover Elementary/Middle School and develop a list of priority projects for maintaining the building and fields for the future.

But during the hourlong discussion, several residents objected to the $50,000 maximum budgeted for the study, saying the money could better be spent in the coming year fixing a known problem, such as the heating system or roof.

“This $50,000 is not my return on investment coming back to the town,” Leighton Terwilliger said. “Hire someone from town who does heating. Hire someone to fix the roof.”

But if there are other projects that should be done before the roof or the heating system, the engineer will identify them and prioritize them, board members said.

“We’re asking the town to be proactive,” board member Kent Armstrong said, “to have someone go through so we can spend that money smartly, to put something in place that is sustainable and gives you money back, so you don’t 10 or 15 years from now find out the Band-Aids and duct tape we did at overpriced costs have left you with no choice but to build a new school.

“We know the town is not in a position to build a new building. You’re stuck with the building we have,” Armstrong said.

The school board will meet with architectural engineers to develop a detailed plan for the evaluation, he said. The work may not cost $50,000, but that is the most the board could spend on the contract. Armstrong said he had gotten quotes from engineering firms that ranged from $26,000 to $82,000.

The engineer will be asked to determine how much heat is being lost through ineffective insulation and old windows, how many windows are dangerously loose and can’t be opened, and whether changing to a less expensive fuel than oil would be a good move for the district, among other things, board members said.

“We want to know how do we make this building more efficient to provide this town what it needs if it wants to have a K-8 school,” Armstrong said. “The ultimate goal is to provide the town with cost certainty in the budget, rather than every year saying, ‘Guess what we got for you this year.’ ”

Voters – the 70 or so in attendance representing about 4 percent of registered voters in town – also agreed to let the district retain up to 2.5 percent of the budget as surplus.

A motion to make the article effective for one year was defeated, and it passed “indefinitely until rescinded” on a voice vote.

The budget also passed on a voice vote. At $4.65 million, it’s up $38,600 – or less than 1 percent – from the current budget.

The budget funds the operations of the school in town, which serves 238 students this year, and tuition for Andover students at Merrimack Valley High School.

“I’m normally one who’s very critical of the budget,” said Andrew Guptill, “but seeing the increase is point-8 percent, I’d like to thank the school board and the budget committee.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo @cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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