Council approves $10 million bond for school improvements

By Seth Daniel

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Put the buckets away and take off those coats in the summer, as city councillors have approved borrowing $10 million to fix various problems in several local schools, including the Beachmont School roof and the heating system in the Lincoln School.

At the request of the mayor, councillors approved a new energy management contract for the schools with Ameresco Inc., and as part of that contract, the city agreed to do $10 million worth of improvements.

Ameresco has guaranteed that the city would recoup the money in energy savings.

The contract would last 15 years with Ameresco, but the borrowing would be for 20 years.

Mayor Tom Ambrosino said the contract is similar to the one that Honeywell held for several years. In that contract, the school also made several improvements, which Honeywell financed internally and the city paid the company back, over several years.

This time, the mayor said it made sense to bond the projects.

“Ameresco has proposed the same financing [as Honeywell], but given our good bond rating, our bond counsel…said it might be better to simply bond the total construction amount rather than finance it,” he said.

He added the improvements would be made in the next three years.

He said the city would see no increase in payments, as they are already making similar payments to Honeywell every year. Now, instead, the city would pay the same amount to bondholders, which would never be any higher than $773,000.

“Our costs will be no more than what they were [this year] and the nine years prior,” he said. “We will get a significant infusion of money to do improvements.”

One longstanding problem that will be fixed quickly is the Beachmont School roof.

“That will finally be addressed, and they’ve already got the go-ahead to start planning,” said the mayor. “That will be a solar-paneled roof, too, so we are going green on that building.”

He said the city would supplement the roof project with $485,000 in federal stimulus money that was initially targeted for use in the RecycleBank program.

Additionally, the Lincoln School will be the recipient of a new heating and cooling (HVAC) system. That school has long suffered from unregulated temperature throughout the year.

The two new buildings won’t receive much in improvements, obviously, but the other schools will have improvements.

The Garfield School will receive energy updates for the pool, and the McKinley School will have some insulation work done. Revere High School will get a new boiler, a high efficiency transformer, and some weatherization.

The vote for the bond and contract was unanimous.

“This is a four-year fight for me,” said Dawn Woodman, a parent at the Beachmont. “We have buckets in our hallways and ceiling tiles falling down. We’re so lucky no one has gotten hurt.”

School Committeewoman Carol Tye said it was a step in the right direction, even if the savings don’t totally add up.

“Over 15 or 20 years, who knows if we’ll save all of that money,” she said. “If the alternative is to do nothing, we certainly won’t save anything.”

Councillor Jim Kimmerle, who has long advocated for the new Beachmont roof, said it was a win.

“To go to school in uncomfortable, wet and soggy conditions is absurd,” he said.

Added Councillor George V. Colella, “I’m extremely happy to see the mayor has made a concerted effort for the Beachmont School and the Abraham Lincoln School for necessary improvements.”

McKinley feels like it’s been sent to the corner

It always seems like the McKinley School gets the short end of the stick.

Those in the neighborhood can point to slights that go back to the construction of the Garfield School, and probably even before that. Now, with this new $10 million bond, the McKinley once again seems to have come out with a black eye.

While it is the oldest school in the system, it didn’t get as much money as the other schools for repairs. It is on the slate to be rebuilt, but most agree that won’t happen for several more years.

Among the largest improvements were radiator thermostatic valves and insulation improvements in the school’s attic and on its pipes.

That slight wasn’t lost with Councillor George Rotondo, who said he would vote for the bond but wasn’t happy about the McKinley’s snubbing.

“There is nothing for the McKinley School – no remediation for rooms that are extremely hot or extremely cold,” he said. “When I look at my daughters’ classrooms there, they’re hot in the summer and cold in the winter. I can’t understand why there’s no remediation for a system that’s far older than the two that are proposed for funding…It’s a building that’s over 100 years old, and as we all know, it won’t be rebuilt in the next five years.”

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