By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Robert Ferguson, director of buildings and grounds in the Westborough School District, described six priority capital projects that he feels are most important to accomplish in the short-term. His presentation to the Westborough School Committee on Dec. 2 followed a similar meeting the night before with the Capital Planning Expenditure Committee.
The items include replacement of the J. Harding Armstrong Elementary School boilers and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and systems maintenance. There is $25,000 in a contingency fund and $25,000 is needed for an HVAC design and engineering study, he said.
Also, a safety concern involves two high school gymnasium divider petitions. Ferguson noted the possible liability of metal tracks up top having pieces falling down. He recommended removal and replacement at a cost of $300,000.
Another high school project is removal and replacement of two rooftop chillers and the addition of air conditioning for the two gyms where testing occurs. Estimated cost is $1.5 million, which includes design.
Other capital items include $750,000 for design and installation of a sprinkler system at Elsie A. Hastings School and an upgrade of HVAC to comply with codes; $50,000 for drainage repairs and trench drain installation at Mill Pond School; and $200,000 for an upgrade to the high school girls’ softball facility, involving fencing, dugouts and re-asphalting.
Ferguson said that the facility is the first thing people see when driving in and that it is in “rough” condition. Additionally, compared to the boys’ facility, it is “not up to par.”
Board member Lisa Edinberg said the inequity issue surpasses the aesthetics. “It’s unacceptable for girls to play in those conditions,” she said.
If he had to prioritize further, Ferguson said that the high school partitions and girls’ softball facility would be the top requests.
School Committee Vice Chair Stephen Doret, who is also on the capital board, said the school and town’s capital expenditures are usually paid for with free cash, which does not impact the taxpayer. Other methods such as borrowing, would have an effect.
“It’s always a balancing act,” said School Committee Chair Kristen Vincent. “When thinking of big-ticket items, where is it going to fall against school and town needs?”
The entire capital budget is usually around $2 million to be allocated across all departments. Ferguson said the capital board would continue to review and evaluate the proposed projects.