Westborough plans to use ARPA funds for Armstrong roof

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Westborough plans to use ARPA funds for Armstrong roof
Drone photography recently showed the condition of the roof at Armstrong Elementary School in Westborough. (Photo/Tami White)

WESTBOROUGH – Westborough will use American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funds to help address Armstrong Elementary School’s failing roof, avoiding a previously discussed option of calling a special Town Meeting to approve the project.

The Select Board unanimously voted to allocate ARPA funds for the roof during its May 10 meeting, following a formal recommendation made by the Advisory Finance Committee the previous day.

This is the latest development in a series of conversations after Superintendent Amber Bock told the School Committee last month that a section of Armstrong’s roof that dates back to 1996 had failed.

The roof area in question spans about 22,500 square feet. The School Committee and Select Board had weighed how to proceed with repairing the roof following Bock’s presentation, including discussing whether to call a special Town Meeting to allocate the funds.

An item to do just that was included on the Select Board’s May 10 agenda, laying out a process where the Select Board could have set a Town Meeting date, placed an article on its warrant, closed the warrant and endorsed that article with a series of votes.

The ARPA plan emerged in separate meetings, however, representing an alternate funding option that Select Board members on May 10 noted would also save the town the administrative costs of running a Town Meeting.

“I think the concept of moving this forward quickly and finding this funding source is a very good one,” said Advisory Finance Committee member Walter Leslie during the Committee’s May 9 meeting. “I think it’s responsible financially and also works really well. I applaud the rapid thought process and action by everyone involved for getting this to us so quickly.”

Westborough considers ARPA options

Town Manager Kristi Williams laid out a larger presentation on potential projects to be funded by ARPA in meetings with the Select Board and the Advisory Finance Committee last week.

Westborough has been awarded $5.7 million in ARPA funds. It has discretion to now allocate that money within a series of guidelines developed by the federal government.

Within the schools, the town had been considering using ARPA funding for two projects, one of which was the upgrade and replacement of the HVAC system at Hastings Elementary School.

ARPA money could have helped pay for that work. An article seeking approval to borrow for that project was also on the warrant for Westborough’s Annual Town Meeting in March, however, ultimately gaining approval.

During Town Meeting, town leaders indicated that they would use that approval to complete the Hastings project if ARPA funds weren’t allocated.

The town is, indeed, now planning to use $1,263,000 in ARPA funds to cover the Armstrong roof project.

That will leave the Hastings project to be funded by borrowing, though the process will be temporarily on hold.

“We have a voted article. It’s going to sit,” Bock told the Advisory Finance Committee.

“We are not going to take an actionable item to pull or to draw funding on that until we get an opportunity to do a complete project assessment.”

New roof to be installed over summer

Williams told the Advisory Finance Committee on May 9 that the roughly $1.26 million figure for Armstrong roof repairs was the actual bid the town received for the project from Greenwood Industries, a contractor.

“[It’s] a very reputable, strong roofing company who has affirmed that they can meet the timeline that we need and will start ordering materials as soon as we access a final vote on funds,” Bock said during the Advisory Finance Committee meeting.

The Garland Company, which conducted a prior assessment of building roofs in the Westborough Schools, would manage the project and oversee Greenwood. Bock said an estimate timeline would have the new roof installed at Armstrong this summer.

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