By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – The Board of Selectmen recommended at its April 26 meeting a measure that would allocate $250,000 for necessary repairs needed at Hastings Elementary School. The matter must next be approved by the voters at the May 14 Annual Town Meeting (ATM).
Although the decision to do so was made by unanimous vote, it was clear the board was not happy regarding the circumstances of how this issue has now become a pressing matter.
The board first learned of the issue at its April 12 meeting when Town Manager Jim Malloy explained school administrators had come to him late in the Town Meeting warrant process. At that time, Malloy said, the administrators had said that an investigation into leaky pipes in the lobby of the school had showed faulty duct work. That area could only be repaired, the administrators had said, by first removing some of the tiles, which contain asbestos. The officials, Malloy said, had wanted to try to get the monies approved for the repairs at the ATM so the repair work could be done over the summer when the school was not in session.
At the April 12 meeting, the selectmen had said that perhaps the company that installed the faulty duct work could be held responsible for the expenses for the repairs. The board asked Malloy to contact the school administration and invite them to the next selectmen's meeting to discuss the issue.
At the April 26 meeting, Dan Hendricks, the schools” director of business and administration, and Brian Schlegel, the schools” director of buildings and grounds, explained to the selectmen that the faulty work was not part of the project in the late 1990s in which other repairs at the school were done but had actually been installed in the late 1970s.
As such, there was no legal recourse to get financial compensation from the company that had done the work, Town Counsel Greg Franks said.
“There's only an eight-year statute of limitations,” he added.
The board reluctantly agreed to approve the measure for the $250,000 to go to the voters at the ATM for their approval.
The board also agreed to sign and submit a letter to Carole Cornelison, the commissioner for the Division of Capital Asset management (DCAM), regarding its objections to proposed plans for re-development of the Westborough State Hospital grounds.
Those plans, which were discussed at a public hearing March 29 in Westborough, were “much too heavily concentrated on residential housing and do not take into account the negative impacts from additional traffic, educational costs, water and sewer demands, as well as other demands on town services and infrastructure,” the letter stated. The selectmen also noted in the letter the “detrimental” impact of retaining the three Division of Youth Services facilities currently on the property, as far as developing any future residential housing there.
At that March 29 meeting, DCAM officials had stressed that they were in only the beginning stages of the project and that there was still much work to be done before any development started on the property. The next public meeting will be held in June.
In other business, the board approved an increase in hours for a Council on Aging (COA) staff member from 19 to 25. The position of outreach case manager, the COA Director Alma Demanche said, is a critical one for the town.
“There truly isn's anyone else in the town that does this type of work,” Demanche said.
The manager assists families in a variety of capacities, she said, including acting as an advocate at doctors” appointments and coordinating services with other agencies.
“We'se been aggressive in supporting family and youth services,” Selectman George Thompson said. “It only seems fair to support the other side [seniors].”
The board unanimously supported the measure.