The Readers Write

CVU Turf Field Bond explained

I have been following the vigorous discussions regarding the upcoming March ballot, and would like to remind voters of the CVU articles they will also be considering.  The CVU board is asking for your support for the budget, which is down year to year (1.9 percent) with a net education spending increase below 2 percent despite an increased student count. In addition, the board is asking the community to support a significantly reduced athletic field improvement bond.

The article will ask voters to approve a bond of up to $700,000 to renovate the school’s athletic fields. This is the second time that the CVU School Board has brought this matter to the community. In November 2013, a $1.5M bond for two artificial turf fields to address persistent problems with our poorly drained playing fields was narrowly defeated.   The CVU board solicited community feedback and heard two consistent concerns from the community. The first concern was about the incremental value of the cost of the artificial turf solution versus other solutions.   The second concern involved the health and environment impacts of the crumb rubber infill material used in most artificial turf installation today.

After receiving community input, the board created a second athletic fields committee and sent them back to the drawing board to verify the need, establish our project goals, take a fresh look at the range of solutions available, and prepare estimates of capital, maintenance, and life-cycle costs.   Ultimately, while the board determined for a second time that an artificial turf solution best meets project goals, concern remained about whether the additional cost of the artificial turf solution was worth the added value, particularly in our current fiscal climate.

In the article presented to voters this March, the board feels it has resolved our internal debate as well as addressed both of the concerns from the community. At $700,000, the amount of the proposed bond is significantly less than the previous bond proposal. With this funding, the board intends to move forward with a single artificial turf solution. The balance of funding needed to cover the costs of an artificial turf field would need to be obtained by the board from other sources, most likely involving community fundraising. Should fundraising efforts be unsuccessful, the bond funds could be used to complete two natural grass turf renovations, which have been estimated to cost $350,000 each and which served as the basis for establishing a minimum bond request. Should funding for the artificial turf solution become available, the board is committed to using an organic infill material in place of the crumb rubber infill to address the second concern expressed to the board.

The impact of this bond to homeowners is $4.75 for a $250,000 home and $7.60 for a $400,000 home, annually.

For more information about the CVU bond, please review our Frequently Asked Questions document, which can be found on both the CVU and CSSU website home pages. You can also attend our Annual Budget Meeting, which will be held on Monday, March 2 at 5pm in Room 140/142 at CVU.

Susan Grasso, CVU School Board Chair

Vote no on Shelburne school bond issue

Any time officials are slow to provide specific details and lead their plea for a yes vote with the words “we have to,” it’s time to run for the hills. Running the affairs of a municipality by the emergency necessity model is not the path to success for the town, and certainly not for its citizens. Incurring long-term debt and raising taxes is the easy answer; making the hard choices regarding staffing, compensation packages and what services the town should really be in the business of providing is the hard answer, and the correct one. Unfortunately, I fully expect a similar “emergency” approach to funding the Bay Road Bridge repair, the town’s pension liabilities, maintenance on the south water tank, the costly upgrades to the sewer treatment facilities (which still require significant pay down on the original bonds that were supposed to fund the sewer system), as well as requested upgrades to the fire station and suggestions that the town library should expand.

As the current school roof was installed many years ago, and was certainly never promoted as lasting forever, I have to ask why the school district and/or the town never established a sinking fund to pay for a replacement roof: it can’t be that needing a new roof is a surprise? The same goes for the several other capital requests contained in the school bond; who’s asleep at the management and planning wheel?

I have my own list of “have to(s)” for Shelburne. The town of Shelburne has to greatly reduce its current debt liability, not increase it. The town of Shelburne has to substantially lower the property tax burden on its citizens. And the town of Shelburne and the school district need to learn to live within their means. In the last four years the state of Vermont has more than doubled the medical care costs for my family. The same is true for many others in the town of Shelburne. A citizen’s purpose is not to pay more, and more, and more taxes and fees. Ten years from now I don’t want to be saying “I told you so” when the town’s finances are in a tailspin, I want to be living in a financially healthy community where the necessary government is lean, light, and solvent, the cost of living is low, and citizens can prosper. Vote no on the bond, as a first step towards fiscal reasonableness for the town of Shelburne.

Bob Clark, Shelburne

Invest in the future

The bond vote is important to me because it represents an investment in our financial and educational future. If we invest now in our school it will remain an attraction to potential home buyers for years to come. This will help keep our home values high because many young families make decisions about where to live based on schools. The proposed renovations represent the minimum upgrades that we really need at SCS. I can attest that open classrooms are disruptive, loud, and not conducive to the highest levels of learning and growth for all students.  For 10 years my students and I laughed each time the air handling unit came on next to my classroom: “the space shuttle is launching again,” we’d laugh. The reality is that noise levels interrupted learning more than once a day, every day of the school year. I’d also point out how challenging it is to be ready to learn when the temperature in your classroom is 85 degrees…I truly believe new windows and mechanical systems are not wants. I’ll be voting in favor of our future.

Here are some thoughts from the 5th grade student council members at SCS:

“When I first learned about this bond I was distressed about the thought of (essentially) throwing away (or recycling) all my memories from my old classes…then it hit me, these changes are going to make the school a much better learning habitat.”

“The hallways in the wings always get distracted by passing through students, especially on days below zero and it is too cold to go in the breezeway. All of the classes get distracted by the students walking past.”

“Age is a main problem in the school because it is the reason why we have so many problems. So, aging is the trunk of our problem tree.”

“I think that the hallway should run through the middle of all the classrooms it would make the space more efficient and we could make all the classrooms not open because it interrupts the learning habitat when people walk by. That also would improve the safety of the students… Where would they go if they have a lockdown?”

“I think that we should say yes to the bond vote because some rooms like the ELL room are really hot and some rooms like the Literacy center are freezing. There also are leaks in the ceiling, and they can cause ruined electronics in the building. This is sad because we pay lots of dollars for good computers.”

“We have no defined entry point for the school, which is bad for the office to keep having to check each camera.”

“The 11.2 million dollars seems a lot less when you are only paying a few dollars a day.”

​​John Madden, SCS Math Coordinator

SCS $11.2 million improvement doesn’t add up

In February, I attended the Shelburne Community School (SCS) facilities improvement public meeting and over the last few weeks, I have visited SCS to ask questions and view sections of the school slated for improvement.

In my opinion, the school does need repairs and improvements, however based on local cost research, little about the proposed $11.2 million budget makes sense.

The current roof is a 122,000 sq. ft. single-ply membrane that is 20 plus years old. The cost, within the $11.2 million budget, to remove and replace it with another 20-yr. single membrane is approx. $1,500,000 or $12.29 sq. ft. This number also includes reinforcing of a steel beam in gym that has the folding hanging partition wall attached.

Was an epoxy coating for the current membrane considered? This product has been around for decades, has been used for buildings like SCS, has a 10 plus year warranty, stands up to ponding and costs $2.65/sq. ft. applied, or $323,000. Add $27,000 for drip edge repair for a cost of $350,000 vs. $1,500,000.

The gym partition wall was hung in 1993. Can’t we assume in the interests of safety there a structural analysis done at time, leaving no need to reinforce the beam?

There are 33 single pane steel frame window units needing replacing. The proposed cost for removal of current drafty windows and replacement with high efficiency windows is $980,000. This is a whopping $29,700 per window unit. A local commercial glass contractor indicated good quality windows would run $140 sq. ft. including removal of current windows, totaling $322,000, or $9,750 per window.

D and E Wings total 27,200 sq. ft. with no interior structural walls. The plan is to gut these wings, add a central corridor, 16 classrooms with lockable doors, two open team spaces, new ADA compliant bathrooms, new flooring, baseboard heating along outside walls with return air going to roof mounted air handlers and bringing items up to code. Standalone costs are $3.4 million for D wing and $3.1 million for E wing, perhaps $5 million combined.

Student enrollment is projected to remain at 780 for at least 10 years, so no need for more floor space or classrooms. Consider the following alternative: Leave the working air handlers in their current rooms/locations. Make two new cross corridors, one past the utility rooms, and another past the restrooms, both connecting with a central corridor. Current classroom space remains the same. Add onto existing restrooms as needed. Estimated costs for demolition, metal frame walls, lockable doors, flooring, air duct work, and new ceiling plus $1 million for other wing renovations is $1,800,000.

This brings the total budget to $2.4 million, or $3.6 million with a new roof – a far cry from the proposed $11.2.

Given this, combined with the lack of details in the proposed $11.2 million, I would be forced to vote no on the proposal and send the SCS Facilities Committee back to the drawing board.

Doug Robbie, Shelburne

Vote yes for SCS

As I closely follow the thoughtful and articulate community dialogue around the upcoming Article VI $11.2M Shelburne Community School (SCS) bond vote, I am thankful to live in a town that cares deeply about both its current state and its future. As the father of a SCS kindergartner and a committed Shelburne community member, I urge you to support this critical investment in our infrastructure and our next generation of leaders and vote yes on Article VI.

We have ignored and deferred investments in infrastructure at the national, state, and municipal levels for far too long. The SCS Facilities Committee and SCS School Board should be applauded for the work they’ve done to fine tune what was a $30M plus project and deliver a proposal that focuses on the “must haves” for SCS in order to return it to the community asset that it needs to be in order to maintain Shelburne’s reputation as one of the most desirable places to live in Chittenden County. As noted by our SCS administrators, we have allocated less than one percent of the annual school budget to building improvements for the past 20 years. As anyone with a basic business background can attest to, this underinvestment in capital improvements may show positive returns in the short term, but it’s an unsustainable strategy for long-term success.

Lastly, the safety concerns with the current D and E wing layout have been well-documented and should be immediately addressed to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable population in the event of a lockdown. I’d encourage anyone who remains skeptical about the $11.2M bond proposal and who has not spent time in SCS lately to go visit the school and observe first-hand why we need to do more than put a band aid on the existing roof. Let’s rally as a community to invest in our future and vote yes for SCS.

Jaime Heins, Shelburne

SCS Bond issue:  What happens if voters say no?

I was sorry to learn that an $11.2M bond issue will be on the ballot on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I think it shows that the issue has not been presented to voters in a balanced way.

There is no doubt that great effort has been made to disseminate the details of the proposal. It also comes to light that school maintenance has been neglected; the school has become unsafe; the security of our teachers and students is so deeply compromised at this point that we may be past any hope of adjusting to the investment we have made so far, and that future solutions to the problem will exceed the costs proposed now.

So what happens if the bond issue is voted down? If the proposal passes, so be it, but we have still not been shown what the school board can do to help the voters and our school if the bond doesn’t pass. What is the order of magnitude of troubles, and can they be prioritized so they make rational sense if the vote goes against the $11.2M that has been presented by the contractor? If the vote were given balanced consideration, we would have information and ballot options covering not only the contractor’s proposal, but also spelling out what the alternative constructive solutions would be, given the challenges we face (as several readers of this paper have already requested). That has not happened.

Toni Hill, Shelburne

More than meets the eye

While the school district appreciates input and suggestions by area residents on the scope and costs of the project, it’s important to point out that:
• A comprehensive Feasibility Study was prepared by a team of professional architects and engineers with over 20 years of experience in school construction.
• The recommendations that resulted from the study, which formed the basis for the current project, are based on their in-depth evaluation of the existing conditions, and experience on similar projects as to the scope of work needed to address the issues, with durable, high quality materials and workmanship to last the next 25 to 35 years.
• The roof, for example, has many issues with it that may not be immediately apparent to the passerby. For example, the existing membrane has been shrinking and pulling the edges of the roof to the point where it pulled the edge blocking and the brick up with it. The membrane cannot stay in place. It must be removed, and the blocking and brick needs to be repaired.
We want to have a roof that does not create large ponds of water when it rains and we want to add more insulation to reduce energy costs. There is structural roof reinforcing needed around the gym due to the fact that snow drift loads were not considered in 1967. These are just a few examples of the complexity of the project that cannot be explained by a two-sided brochure. The architect does not recommend applying an epoxy coating on top of the existing roof as it would not address all the other issues that were discovered by the comprehensive study. The same applies to the windows and the interior renovations to the building. There is more to it than meets the eye.
• One of the directives given by the facilities committee/school district was that if they were going to spend money on this project, they wanted it done “right”.   The school district hired professionals to evaluate existing conditions and recommend solutions. These professionals understand what is involved in a renovation project of this magnitude.
• An estimator was hired to provide an independent estimate of the project. This estimator has been working on school projects all over New England for over 20 years, is keenly aware of current costs based on school construction projects of similar size and scope, and regularly meets with general contractors to confirm the most current pricing.

The school district’s architect and engineers have performed their due diligence to prepare a proposed scope of work, along with professional cost estimates in the best long-term interest of the school district and the Town of Shelburne.

If anyone would like to go over the project in more detail, in order to review the full depth and breadth of the existing conditions, the school district may set up a time in the afternoon on Monday, March 2nd where the architect may be available at the school. Please contact kastockman@aol.com if you are interested in that meeting.

Katharine Stockman, SCS Board

Bloated bond issue?

I would like voters to consider the following: no architect worth his salt is going to have a low estimate on the cost of renovations, he would look like he didn’t know what he is doing. In the early February meeting about the bond issue I asked the presenter what would happen if, by some stroke of luck, the bids came in below the architect’s estimate. Would they bond only for the bids received plus a small amount for contingencies? There was not a definitive yes, they plan to spend 11.2 million no matter how low the bids come in. You can be sure that the architect’s estimates are much more than they need to be. Regarding the supposed structural work needed in the old gym, how is it that the movable partition that was done in 1993 now all of a sudden needs work? I am sure that someone raised that question back then. The original structural steel drawings should be available and an engineer could easily find our if there is a problem. Structural steel normally has a large safety factor. If there is problem just remove the partition, what is with the 2 plus million dollar contingencies? Vote no!

Bruce Elmore, Shelburne

“It can’t happen here”

Twenty children and six adults lost their lives at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. as the result of a mass shooting on Dec.14, 2012. There is one place other than a home in which every person should feel absolutely safe and secure from the threat of harm. That place is one’s community school. That is why I am going to support the March 3 bond for improvements to our school. While the bond addresses many needed deferred maintenance items, the proposed renovations to the D and E wings will serve as a major step toward providing Safe School Design and Operation.

There is a Sandy Hook Advisory Commission Report that was recently released which discusses how physical improvements that if implemented could greatly mitigate the catastrophic outcome of a potential attack against schools. Renovations to D and E wings at Shelburne Community School would address some of those very pointed recommendations. I’m sure there are those out there that would say, “Oh, this is Vermont, that can’t happen here.” Well, I’d wager that in the fall of 2012, there were many in Newton, Conn. that would have said the same thing about their community. Does the name Melissa Jenkins mean anything to you? She’s the young teacher from St. Johnsbury Academy that was brutally murdered a few years ago. I’m sure that the citizens of Danville didn’t think something like that could happen there either. Unfortunately, times are much different from what they were in 1967 when our school was built.

Yes, our taxes are high but that issue needs to be addressed by all of us with our Legislators. On March 3 we all will have the opportunity to make a difference in safety for our children.

David Hillman, Shelburne

Bond needs community input

Article VI shouldn’t be on the ballot. This $11.2M bond was approved by the school board as a ballot item in October before the project was presented to the community and input sought in hearings. Public presentations and commentary were tailored after the fact to justify the bond and to whip up support.

The last major capital project for SCS was considered about nine years ago: the addition of a two-story administration structure and reconfiguration of the entrance. The board duly reached out to the community with a publicity campaign and hearings. With public opinion overwhelmingly skeptical, the board decided, wisely, not to put the bond on the ballot.

No matter what the outcome this time, let’s remember before putting huge capital items on the ballot in the future, as boards and public servants we need to engage the public for their wisdom and input and try to find consensus. The results will be better and, more important; the community spirit that makes Shelburne such a great place to live will be preserved and enhanced.

Robert Finn, SCS Board

Show support for Article VI

The first time I walked my child to school at SCS, I was amazed by its presence as a crucial piece of the social fabric of our town. Not only does it educate our kids, but it employs so many of our residents. These residents shop around our town, run little league games, and volunteer everywhere. Their kids grow up and get part time jobs around town, and continue the good citizenship they have learned at SCS as they attend CVU and beyond.

It’s time to continue to support these families and kids and bring this school building up to code and recent education standards. This bond vote is the opportunity to do this. It represents a reasonable trade off of what could be done, what needs to be done and what absolutely needs to be done. Let’s show our commitment to education, efficiency, and security for the kids and families of Shelburne and vote yes on Article VI.

David Connery, Shelburne School Board Chair

Where are the options?

I’ve read everything I could put my hands on about this issue and have reluctantly concluded that I must vote against the current and only proposal. The principal and others have used unnecessary and inappropriate scare tactics in my humble opinion. An example: The roof is falling. In fact there is an existing Capital Budget to upgrade and maintain the roof. Further, a take it or leave it proposal is not reasonable in this day and age. Options should be presented with the pros and cons of each to aid in an intelligent discussion of this issue and the adoption of a reasonable compromise. Vote no on Article VI.

Bill Hogan, Shelburne

An honest look at the SCS bond numbers

A lot of numbers have been thrown about as to the accuracy of cost estimates underlying the SCS bond vote, most implying that the scale and scope of the work is excessive, and that the work could be done for far less than the proposal at hand. Let us review how the proposal came to be. The Facilities Committee commissioned Dore and Whittier, a Vermont-based Architecture and Engineering firm of over 60 professionals, which has overseen over 100 major school, municipal, and similar projects over the past couple of decades. The study was extensive, covering many months and detailed reviews of the school, and they came up with possible project estimates ranging from $20 to $31 million, which ultimately got pared down to the most essential needs of roof, windows, and the significant renovation of the D and E wings.

While Dore and Whittier would be the architects for the project, they do not otherwise benefit in any way from a larger or smaller project. Their recommendations were simply their reflection of SCS needs based upon their professional experience developed over many decades of directly-related work. Associated cost estimates are likewise based upon extensive professional experience, for which their reputations and licenses are ultimately liable, using established industry estimation methodology. All project elements would go to competitive bid, and whatever economies can be had will be pursued.

In short – the project numbers are based upon detailed study by professionals in the business, and no one backing the proposal has any interest, as taxpayers first and foremost, in seeing it cost any of us a penny more than necessary. Conjecture that we can get similar results for a fraction of the cost is exactly that.

All of us as taxpayers have been frustrated by seeing education taxes rise faster than inflation, and far faster than the Shelburne school budget, in many recent years. The driver of this is not local school spending, which has averaged just under 1.2 percent in recent years, but the legacy of Act 60 and 68. I was heartened to see Kate Webb’s article in this week’s Shelburne News discussing the renewed urgency of efforts at district consolidation, and elimination of small school grants and ‘phantom’ students – all of which are direct drivers of per pupil spending in much of the state being far higher than it is in Shelburne.

Ultimately however, Vermont consistently measures in the top of the nation in terms of key education quality metrics, for which it invests accordingly. The results – the highest graduation rate in the country, consistently among the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and outstanding ‘livability’ statistics – are not unrelated. Observers have noted for years that our country’s woeful education results compared with peer industrialized nations are in large part the result of those nations’ greater investment in education. While I don’t enjoy paying taxes any more than the next guy, ultimately I think this investment, to support a most essential Shelburne resource – the school – bears our support.

Matt Wormser, Shelburne

Send SCS bond back to the drawing table

Here are some final thoughts to consider prior to Tuesday’s bond vote:

  • Don’t be swayed by arguments that our children will not be safe unless the $11.2M bond passes. The same goals can be achieved with less cost.
  • Instead of proposing bond costs based on ultimate wish lists of $35M and then paring back to $11.2M, why not start with a list of upgrades that need to be done and then calculate the cost?
  • There are lower cost options to achieve the primary goals of completing deferred maintenance and student safety. However, these were not presented to the public for fear the lower priced option would be selected.
  • An $11.2M bond over 20 years would cost $760,000/year in debt service.
  • The $760,000/year could be spent on ten teaching and support positions.
  • For the next 20 years, bond repayment would prevent or “crowd out” needed spending on worthy municipal projects such as the library renovation, rescue squad facility, road and bridge maintenance, storm water/sewer management as well as keeping in compliance with State and/or Federal mandates.
  • It is important to prioritize all the necessary capital costs in the Town of Shelburne prior to approving the school bond proposal.
  • We all agree that the deferred maintenance and student safety upgrades are necessary, what is in question is the cost.
  • A “No” vote provides the school board and the Selectboard the opportunity to work together to present the public with a fiscally responsible option that Shelburne residents can feel good about supporting.

Jan Gannon, Shelburne